Is the Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia a Total Failure?

by Julian Ku

Yes, at least according to this account by Douglas Gillis in Foreign Policy, the ECCC has been nearly a complete and utter failure (and a waste of money).  The main problem seems to be, according to the article, incompetent international judges (or at least one shady German judge). Obviously, the U.N. Secretariat, which was managing this tribunal, seems to have screwed things up.

NEW YORK/PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — In the evening hours of a sweltering Friday at the end of April, a team of U.N. lawyers in Cambodia alerted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to a crisis at a tribunal built to serve the millions of victims of the Khmer Rouge, arguably the most important court functioning in the world today.That day, the lawyers’ bosses — a judge from Germany and a prominent Cambodian appeals judge — had shut down an investigation of two  Khmer Rouge military leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity before it had even really begun.

“It is our duty to notify you that we consider, as a matter of law and procedure, that the co-investigating judges did not conduct a genuine, impartial or effective investigation and as such did not discharge their legal obligation to ascertain the truth,” the lawyers wrote. “In our view, the decision to close the investigation at this stage breaches international standards of justice, fairness and due process of law.”

The families of countless victims in the case would be denied justice. The leaders of Pol Pot’s navy and air force — accused among other crimes of eliminating more than 4,500 of their subordinates — would never be held to account for their alleged involvement in torture, executions and forced labor.

And this would undoubtedly appear to have been done under pressure from the Cambodian government, which had publicly announced that the case, as well as another larger investigation, was not “allowed.”

The team told Ban that it was writing “to seek your guidance on how to proceed in these circumstances.”

In the seven months since the letter was written, the United Nations has not offered a substantive answer to these problems. Indeed, as matters continued to worsen, officials at headquarters in New York determined that their hands were tied, leaving matters to deteriorate to the point of scandal.

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