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.

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