The curtain rises on the Extraordinary Chambers

03 December 2007 by Thierry Cruvellier

On November 20, a day after the arrest of former Khmer Rouge president, Khieu Samphan, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) held its first public hearing in the Duch case. It was a legal christening marked by a debate on the prolonged detention of the accused and, for the public who came to watch, by the amateur televising of the events.

On the morning of November 20, around 500 people filled the large auditorium of the ECCC. In theory, it should serve as the primary courtroom for the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, but a year and a half after the Court opened, it is still not ready for use. So those present had to follow the hearing on two giant screens, due to the lack of space in the small room where for two days the Pre-Trial Chamber heard the petitions of the accused to be temporarily released or at least placed under house arrest. It was a historic moment, particularly with the public appearance of the man who ran the S- 21 torture center in Phnom Penh from 1975 to 1979, who is accused of the death of at least 14,000 people. Unfortunately for the public, the event was quite difficult to follow—absurd framing, ridiculous angles and poor, blurred images were all they saw. International tribunals have never really shined where image is concerned, but the on-screen debut of the ECCC was, from this point of view, the worst of them.

Eight years of provisional detention

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