Khmer Rouge victims' revolving door opens

18 February 2008 by Erika Kinetz

Victims of the Khmer Rouge had their first, historic day in court this month at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). On February 8, Theary Seng, who is quickly becoming the poster child for the genocide that ravaged Cambodia in the late 1970s, stood to address a man she believes was responsible for the deaths of her parents and 1.7 million other Cambodians: Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's right-hand man and most trusted deputy, who is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. "For us, the graveyard was our playground," she said.

Like the International Criminal Court (ICC), the ECCC gives remarkable scope for victim participation. At the Khmer Rouge court, victims can sign on as civil parties to a given case, which gives them the right to access case files, object to certain judicial decisions and have an attorney speak on their behalf during court hearings. It also makes them eligible to receive reparations. So far, four victims—Theary Seng, Chum Mey, who survived the notorious Khmer Rouge S21 torture prison, and two who remain anonymous—are civil parties in the trial against Nuon Chea.

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