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

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

article
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.

article
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. 

article
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. 

article
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.

article
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.