Khmer Rouge Tribunal Moving Forward

by Duncan Hollis

My colleague, Jaya Ramji-Nogales, writing over at IntLawGrrls, is reporting a settlement of the dispute over bar dues between foreign defense counsel and the Cambodian Bar Association. The compromise–a one time bar fee for foreign lawyers of $500­–removes the last of many roadblocks that had been holding up the tribunal for months. It now looks like this hybrid war crimes tribunal may actually start trials by early 2008. So, the good news for those interested in Khmer Rouge accountability is that there is a process in place with both domestic and international buy-in to pursue war crimes charges against those still around to face them. The bad news is that there’s likely more politicking ahead, especially since the hybrid tribunal’s mandate expires in July 2009, meaning they might only have a little more than a year of the originally planned three year window to do their work.

One Response

  1. From my own posting on this topic back in early March

    “There have been many obstacles to this tribunal and its fate hangs in the balance. There have been contentions from the Cambodians regarding an understanding of the intent of the Tribunal system, as well as the scope of indictments and the use of foreign counsel. The Cambodians are accused of attempting to limit the scope of the investigation and retain complete autonomy over the system. There have also been allegations questioning the independence and aptitude of Cambodian legal professionals. According to an article by The Guardian, an investigative judge involved with the process has stated that “if new rules … are not adopted we will not go forward because it would be useless. Then we would have to examine the possibility of the international judges asking the UN to withdraw the whole process. It’s now or never”. Thirty years after the atrocities, it appears that justice is on the verge of abandonment.

    The mixed tribunal system raises many questions. According to the rules of the International Criminal Court, prosecution cannot proceed without invitation, and invokes a “principle of complimentarity”, which states that the ICC compliments a national system and does not replace that system. However, the ICC only holds jurisdiction over cases occurring after its establishment. Furthermore, mixed tribunals are not Security Council derived, but are the results of negotiations between states and the UN. While this system leaves the autonomous entity of the nation state in tact and coordinates with international standards, the logistics may prove overly burdensome, as in the case of the Khmer Rouge.”

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