Stillborn investigations do not die in Cambodia

28 May 2014 by Julia Wallace, Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

At the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – established to try the most responsible Khmer Rouge leaders for violations of international law and serious crimes – pragmatism is battling against due process over the two politically unpopular cases still on the court’s docket. In a schizophrenic atmosphere, Cambodian nationals and internationals are split. Lawyers are complaining that victims’ and suspects’ rights are being disregarded. 

In late April, the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s international co-prosecutor, Nicholas Koumjian, asked investigating judges to add rape, sexual violence and forced marriage to a lengthy list of crimes and crime scenes they are looking into as part of the controversial Case 004. Simultaneously, Koumjian is seeking a rule change that would allow criminal accusations to be dropped from the seemingly endless investigations in both Case 004 and its sister case, 003, which have been dragging on for nearly five years.


The duelling requests are emblematic of a kind of schizophrenia that has seized the court regarding the two politically unpopular cases, which are fiercely opposed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government, and which Cambodian court staff have refused to touch since their inception in September 2009.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.