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Report of Group of Experts
to establish Khmer Rouge Tribunal, 18 Feb. 1999
Unprecedented victims participation in international law
This Civil Party of Orphans Class outreach program (2007 - mi-2009) aims to take advantage of the unprecedented opportunity for the involvement of victims as “Civil Party” within the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (“ECCC” or informally, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal) process.
The Center for Social Development, led by Theary Seng (March 2006-July 2009), was at the forefront of paving the way for as many Cambodians as possible to be directly involved in this process of the ECCC, for we believe that the best way to learn or to have ideas be deeply imbedded in one’s mind is to be actively entangled in the process.
[NOTE: Theary Seng became Executive Director of CSD in March 2006 a few months before the ECCC came into operation and was ousted by a court injunctive order, a personal matter turning political in Juy 2009 at the height of Cambodian victims awareness program in light of ECCC.]
It should be noted we are also deeply engaged with other civil society organizations and applaud their efforts in getting other Cambodians involved in this process. For example, CSD is a steering committee member of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (“CHRAC”) and initiated the idea of using CHRAC as a clearinghouse for civil party applications to ease the administrative burden of the ECCC Victims Unit, and recommended that the German Development Service gives funding to CHRAC rather CSD as CHRAC has 23 organizations as members and this issue requires the use of effective network (which CHRAC certainly is!). CSD has chosen to focus on the narrow, more manageable field of “Orphans Class”; we encourage other organizations to narrow the work by choosing a category – victims as “Prisoners of Detention Centers”, victims of the “Eastern Zone”, victims as “Widows”, victims as “Child Soldiers” etc.
We see the involvement of Cambodians within the ECCC as one effective way for them to know first-hand about the legal process, the rule of law, issues related to human rights, history, reconciliation etc. Hence, we are using the ECCC – despite our continuing concerns of political interference, charges of corruption, lack of independence of Cambodian officials in the ECCC etc. – as a catalyst, as an illustration to make these larger topics “stick” within the mind of Cambodians and thus, more meaningful.
CSD is doing this through using its executive director Theary Seng as a concrete example… the best way to get anything done in this society of empty rhetoric is through REAL EXAMPLE for people to see that it can be done ! – that is one of the principal reasons why CSD executive director became the first applicant and the first civil party to be recognized by the ECCC.
Through this concrete example – from much empty noise to real action – we would like:
(i) to ease the comfort level for other Cambodians to enter the legal/historical process;
(ii) to collect personal stories – not only for the immediate legal benefits, but also for the preservation of memory and legacy; and
(iii) to shape and build on international law.
This is an unprecedented opportunity, and we would like to have other mixed tribunals in the future, e.g. for Darfur, to look upon the Cambodian experience with enthusiasm as a model to follow, and not as a disaster because we did not take hold of the opportunity in the right way or did not have foresight and vision of what this means and could mean.
Case File No. 2 (“Senior KR Leaders”) of ECCC
The window of opportunity to join this “Civil Party of Orphans Class” closes when the Case File No. 2 (Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith) goes to a public hearing (that is investigation/pre-trial stage has closed and the ECCC will hold the trial, estimated earliest mid-2009).
Currently (2006-2009), there is still much confusion about what is a “Civil Party” and how to administratively conduct the participation of Cambodians in this regard – confusion even among the civil society leaders/organizations who are involved in this process of engagement.
Hence, CSD would like again to show through concrete example how it can be done – by breaking down the process into tiny steps: CSD is looking for Cambodians who were orphaned during this time period (April 1975-Jan. 1979)by creating a very specialized class and having the executive director and/or through a victims association representing their interests in the ECCC against senior KR leaders.
Civil Party Seminars conducted by CSD Theary Seng
At each seminar, the CSD executive director explains about basic legal knowledge about the ECCC criminal proceedings and how the unprecedented civil party fits into it all. The executive director and her team assist the interested participants to complete as much of the Victims Participation Form as possible, with the encouragement that everyone continues writing the narrative of his/her “legal injury” at his/her leisure with private time for thoughts and processing. CSD does not want nor do we accept applications completed on the spot, as this does not allow time for the deepening and processing of what it all means.
These basic materials are given to each participant:
- CSD Fair Trial Handbook
- CSD Understanding Trauma in Cambodia Handbook
- ECCC Q & A Handbook
Provincial Locations of Civil Party of Orphans Class seminars in 2008:
- Svay Rieng (Nov. 2007): 3 seminars on civil party participation.
- Phnom Penh (April 2008): one-full day seminar at CSD conference room for “Civil Party of Orphans Class” conducted by CSD executive director with 10-15 CSD staff and volunteers on hand for assistance; 30 interested victims, also civil society leaders and Victims Unit representative present.
- Koh Kong (7 June 2008): Civil Party of Orphans Class seminar held in Koh Kong after CSD “Justice & National Reconciliation” public forum conducted by CSD executive director Theary Seng.
- Takeo (1 Aug. 2008): Orphans Class seminar after CSD public forum conducted by CSD executive director Theary Seng.
- Kampong Cham (30 Aug. 2008): Orphans Class seminar in Kampong Cham after public forum conducted by senior project assistant SOK Leang.
- Pailin (18 Oct. 2008): Orphans Class seminar in Pailin after public forum, conducted by CSD executive director.
- Battambang (19 Oct. 2008): Orphans Class seminar in Battambang, conducted by CSD executive director.
- Phnom Penh (21 Nov. 2008): Orphans Class meeting, conducted by CSD executive director.
See Public Announcement, attached.
In addition to these seminars, CSD assists the understanding of victims interested in becoming a civil party with countless discussions via press interviews, round-table radio and TV broadcasts and meetings.
Background and ECCC materials
Please see the following articles and public announcement by way of background:
- www.eccc.gov.kh “Court Documents: Civil Party”, particularly the Application for Declarative Relief, Not for Re-hearing, 17 Aug. 2008.
- Finding My Voice (Voice of Justice)
- Must Justice Be Seen To Be Done (VoJ, Feb.-March 2007)
- CIVIL PARTY: Khmer Victims v. Charged KR Senior Leaders (VoJ, Nov. 2007)
- ABOVE NATIONS, HUMANITY (VoJ, Oct. 2007)
- Statement of Civil Party Theary Seng... in ECCC (March 2008)
- NECESSITY OF OUTREACH: Justice, Peace, Reconciliation (Jan. 2007)
Seed funding for this Civil Party of Orphans Class comes from the German Development Service (DED).
How you can help:
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