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Little Time Left To Organize Tribunal Civil Parties

Cambodian villagers tour the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, former Khmer Rouge S-23 prison, in Phnom Penh.
Cambodian villagers tour the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, former Khmer Rouge S-23 prison, in Phnom Penh.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is now facing testimony from more than 2,000 victims that court officials must organize ahead of a trial for four senior leaders of the regime.

Around 2,120 victims who have registered as civil party complainants have been accepted from more than 4,000 applications, and it is now up to the Trial Chamber of the court to decide how they will be used.

Seng Theary, a lawyer who is also a tribunal complainant, says the short time is a concern. Little time remains for preparation, she told VOA Khmer.

Lawyers for the civil parties must study the facts of the case, the crimes and the testimony in advance of questioning of defendants, in this case the four senior-most leaders of the Khmer Rouge: Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.

Seng Theary says that means a lot of preparation, lest civil parties be left out of the process. The trial is supposed to begin early this year.

“They should know their individual clients, how this client suffered at what level, who is giving testimony, about which crimes,” she said. “And this relates to more than 2,000 people. And each one has a deep story and needs time.”

Long Panhavuth, a tribunal monitor for the Cambodia Justice Initiative, said a tribunal management meeting should take place soon to help organize the process.

Latt Ky, who observes the tribunal for the rights group Adhoc, said civil parties are critical to the trials, and their participation lends a voice to reconciliation.

Meanwhile, the tribunal's Victims Unit has worked to coordinate meetings between lawyers and civil parties, including in the provinces, to help them prepare.

“In fact, lawyers for the civil party complainants have worked since the end of 2010,” said Im Sophea, the unit's outreach coordinator. “They visited grassroots, visited other target areas where victims or civil party complainants lived, in order to explain to them and identify categories of witnesses” for the trial.