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Cambodia Tribunal

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Cambodia Tribunal

The tribunal's main building with the court room

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, is a court established to try the most senior responsible members of the Khmer Rouge for alleged violations of international law and serious crimes perpetrated during the Cambodian genocide. Although it is a national court, it was established as part of an agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations, and its members include both local and foreign judges. It is considered a hybrid court; as the ECCC was created by the government in conjunction with the UN, but remains independent of them, with trials held in Cambodia using Cambodian and international staff. The Cambodian court invites international participation in order to apply international standards.[1]

The remit of the Extraordinary Chambers extends to serious violations of Cambodian penal law, international humanitarian law and custom, and violation of international conventions recognized by Cambodia, committed during the period between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979. This includes crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. The chief purpose of the tribunal as identified by the Extraordinary Chambers is to provide justice to the Cambodian people who were victims of the Khmer Rouge regime's policies between April 1975 and January 1979. However, rehabilitative victim support and media outreach for the purpose of national education are also outlined as primary goals of the commission.[2]

The tribunal is known in Khmer as អង្គជំនុំជម្រះវិសាមញ្ញក្នុងតុលាការកម្ពុជា angk chomnoumchomreah visaeamonhnh knong tolakar kampouchea; and in French as Chambres extraordinaires au sein des tribunaux cambodgiens (CETC). "Khmer Rouge Tribunal" is rendered in Khmer as សាលាក្ដីខ្មែរក្រហម, salakdei khmero kraham.


In 1997, Cambodia's two Co-Prime Ministers wrote a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations requesting assistance to set up trial proceedings against the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge. After lengthy negotiations, an agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations was reached and signed on 6 June 2003. The agreement was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.[3]

Cambodia established a Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force to create a legal and judicial structure to try the remaining leaders for war crimes and other crimes against humanity, but progress was slow. The government said that due to the poor economy and other financial commitments, it could only afford limited funding for the tribunal. Several countries, including Canada, India and Japan, came forward with extra funds. But by January 2006, the full balance of funding was not yet in place.

Nonetheless, the Task Force began its work and took possession of two buildings in the grounds of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) High Command headquarters in Kandal province just on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. In March 2006, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, nominated seven judges for a trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders.

In May 2006, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana announced that Cambodia's highest judicial body approved 30 Cambodian and United Nations judges to preside over the long-awaited genocide tribunal for surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. The judges were sworn in early July 2006.[4]

In June 2009 the international Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit resigned from his assignment due to "personal and familial reasons". In November of the same year, Andrew T. Cayley was appointed as new international Co-Prosecutor, and his Cambodian co-prosecutor is Ms. Chea Leang.

Judicial chambers

Ieng Sary pre-trial detention hearing on 11 February 2010

Under the agreement between Cambodia and the UN, the tribunal is to be composed of both local and international judges. Due to Cambodia's predominantly French legal heritage, investigations are performed by the Investigating Judges, who will conduct investigations and submit a closing order stating whether or not the case will proceed to trial.[5]

Both the Pre-Trial Chamber and the Trial Chamber are composed of three Cambodian and two international judges, while a Supreme Court Chamber is made up of four Cambodian judges and three international judges.

All international judges have been appointed by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy of Cambodia from a list of nominees submitted by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. There are also Reserve judges who may be called upon to serve in the event of an emergency.

The judges will serve out their terms until the Tribunal completes its work.

The current judges are:

Supreme Court Chamber

Name Country of Origin
Motoo Noguchi Japan
Chandra Nihal Jayasinghe Sri Lanka
Agnieszka Klonowiecka-Milart Poland
Kong Srim (President) Cambodia
Som Sereyvuth Cambodia
Mong Monichariya Cambodia
Ya Narin Cambodia
Florence Mumba : Reserve Zambia
Sin Rith : Reserve Cambodia

Trial Chamber

Name Country of Origin
Silvia Cartwright New Zealand
Jean-Marc Lavergne France
Nil Nonn (President) Cambodia
You Ottara Cambodia
Ya Sokhan Cambodia
Claudia Fenz : Reserve Austria
Thou Mony : Reserve Cambodia
Pre-Trial Chamber
Name Country of Origin
Rowan Downing Australia
Chang-ho Chung South Korea
Prak Kimsan (President) Cambodia
Huot Vuthy Cambodia
Ney Thol Cambodia
Pen Pichsaly : Reserve Cambodia
Steven J. Bwana : Reserve Tanzania

Organs of the ECCC


Co-Investigating Judges

Office of Administration

Defence Support Section

The Defence Support Section (DSS) is responsible for providing indigent defendants with a list of lawyers who can defend them, for providing legal support and administrative support to lawyers assigned to represent individual defendants, and for promoting fair trial rights. The DSS also acts as a voice for the defence in the media and at outreach events, and organises a legacy program.[6] The DSS legacy program is designed to increase understanding of the criminal trial process and the right to a fair trial within Cambodia. The program provides an opportunity for Cambodian law students and lawyers to gain experience practicing international law in the hopes that the court will lead to a lasting improvement in the Cambodian legal system.[7][8][9]

Author Mary Kozlovski addresses problems at the Court, including issues impacting fair trial rights, in an essay entitled Bringing the Khmer Rouge to Justice in the June 2012 issue of Global Insight, the journal of the International Bar Association (IBA).[10]

Heads of the DSS

  • Isaac Endeley (April 2012 – present)
  • Nisha Valabhji (Officer-in-Charge March 2011 – March 2012)
  • Rupert Abbott (Officer-in-Charge) (November 2010 – February 2011)[11]
  • Richard Rogers (August 2008 – November 2010)
  • Rupert Skilbeck (August 2006 – August 2008)

Victims Support Section

Chum Mey is one of only twelve known survivors of the Khmer Rouge imprisonment in the S-21 Tuol Sleng camp.

The VSS (Victims Support Section) serves as the liaison between the ECCC and the victims or their representatives. Through the VSS, victims have the ability to seek support and assistance by participating in the ECCC's proceedings as Complainants or Civil Parties. The VSS is responsible for informing victims of their rights in the proceedings, and connecting them with legal representatives if they desire it.[12] As such, victims are formally recognized as party's of the proceedings and eligible for either collective or individual reparations for damages caused during the regime.[13] The VSS also ensures the safety and protection of its participants. This support and protection can be either physical protection for providing key testimony, or emotion support in the form of psychiatric help and assistance.[14] In early 2012, Germany donated 1.2 million euros to the VSS. This marks Germany's fourth donation to the VSS since its official recognition as an organ of the ECCC. The financial assistance will go primarily towards legal representation for the victims, effective legal participation, and information dissemination. Germany has donated in total 1.9 million euro to the VSS.[15]

Office of Administration Headed by Acting Director Kranh Tony and deputy director Knut Rosandhaug, the Office of Administration oversees the Budget and Finance, Information and Communication Technology, Security and Safety, General Services, Public Affairs, and Personnel units. Kranh and Rosandhaug are charged with coordinating these offices and supporting relationships with the UN and donors, and protecting the agreement forged. Their power is checked by Legal Officers who review all official documentation and advise the Office of Administration.[16]

  • Budget and Finance:
The Budget and Finance offices are charged with the financial management and disbursement of the ECCC. Donations are managed through these offices and disbursed accordingly, and any budget adjustments and financial reports are put forth by these offices.[17]
  • Court Management:
The Court Management Section of the Office of Administration is responsible for running the Witness and Expert Support Unit, the Transcription Unit in charge of recording the Court's proceedings, the Translation and Interpretation Unit, the Audio Visual Unit and the Library unit, which provides lawyers and other persons in the court with access to research material to aid them in their proceedings. The Court Management Section is responsible for running these offices in order to ensure the functionality of the judicial process of the ECCC and securing the necessary means for documentation of the process.[18]
  • General Services:
The General Services Unit is responsible for any logistical needs of the court, both national and international and therefore includes the Building Unit, Travel Unit, Transport Unit, Asset Management Unit, Supply Unit, Mail and Pouch Unit and the Procurement Unit.[19]
  • Information and Communication Technology':
The Information and Communication Technology section is responsible for maintaining a secure network for the ECCC as well as providing and maintaining equipment necessary for ECCC staff.[20]
  • Personnel:
The Personnel section contains both national and international sections. They are in charge of all human resources needs including developing and maintaining policies, procedures and manuals for personnel conduct, and providing administrative management to personnel and staff information to the Office of Administration as a whole.[21]
  • Public Affairs:
The Public Affairs Section is responsible for all ECCC public relations needs including outreach and information, media relations and the distribution audio/visual recordings of the trials.[22]
  • Security and Safety:
The Security and Safety Section is responsible for any security needs of the ECCC and protection of personnel and the Court's perimeter.[23]

Jurisdiction and applicable law

The Law on the Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea establishes the crimes over which the Court has jurisdiction. Presently it has jurisdiction over certain crimes that violate the 1956 Penal Code of Cambodia, crimes under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, general crimes against humanity, crimes under the Geneva Conventions (war crimes), crimes under the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and crimes under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.[24] If found guilty, criminals may be sentenced to prison or have their property confiscated. The Court, as with all other tribunals established by the United Nations, does not have the power to impose the death penalty. Thus far, five people have been indicted by the Court for genocide, crimes against humanity and/or war crimes. To date, three have been convicted and all sentenced to life imprisonment.[25]

Victim's role

Victims of the Khmer Rouge are defined as "any person or legal entity who has suffered from physical, psychological, or material harm as a direct consequence of the crimes committed in Cambodia by the Democratic Kampuchea regime between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979 that are under the jurisdiction of the ECCC". The rights provided to the victims in regards to the ECCC are stated in the Cambodian Law under the Internal Rules of the ECCC. Victims have the opportunity to actively participate in judicial proceedings through Complaints and Civil Parties, and they can seek collective and moral reparation.[26]



The list below details the counts against each individual indicted in the Court and his or her current status. The column titled CCL lists the number of counts (if any) of crimes under Cambodian law with which an individual has been charged. G the number of counts of the crime of genocide, H the number of counts of crimes against humanity, W the number of counts of war crimes, DCP the number of counts of destruction of cultural property, and CAD the number of crimes against diplomats. Note that these are the counts with which an individual was indicted, not convicted.

Name Indicted CCL G H W DCP CAD Transferred
to the ECCC
Current status Ind.
Kang Kek Iew 31 July 2007 8 5 31 July 2007 Serving sentence of life imprisonment in Cambodia[27] [28]
Nuon Chea 15 September 2010 3 2 12 6 19 September 2007 Serving sentence of life imprisonment[25] [29]
Khieu Samphan 15 September 2010 3 2 12 6 19 November 2007 Serving sentence of life imprisonment[25] [29]
Ieng Sary 15 September 2010 3 2 12 6 12 November 2007 Died on 14 March 2013; proceedings terminated on 14 March 2013[30] [29]
Ieng Thirith 15 September 2010 3 1 10 6 12 November 2007 Proceedings suspended (released on 16 September 2012)[31] [29]

Kang Kek Iew

Kang Kek Iew before the tribunal on 20 July 2009

Kang Kek Iew, or "Comrade Duch", was one of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge. He headed the Santebal—a special branch of the Khmer Rouge in charge of internal security and running prison camps. In addition, Kang Kek Iew ran the notorious Tuol Sleng (S-21) prison in Phnom Penh.[32]

Kang Kek Iew was the first of the five brought before the tribunal. His hearings began on 17 September 2009 and concluded on 27 November 2010. Seven areas of relevance resurfaced frequently during Kang Kew Lew's trial: issues relating to M-13, the establishment of S-21 and the Takmao prison, the implementation of CPK policy at S-21, armed conflict, the functioning of S-21, the establishment and functioning of S-24; and issues relating to character of Kang Kek Iew himself. His lieutenant Mam Nay, the feared leader of the interrogation unit of the Santebal, gave testimony on 14 July 2009 and, although implicated in hands-on torture and execution along with Duch, he was not charged.[33][34]

On 26 July 2010, the tribunal found Kang Kek Iew guilty of crimes against humanity, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Initially, Kang Kek Iew was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. However, this was reduced owing to his illegal detention by the Cambodian Military Court between 1999 and 2007 and time already spent in the custody of the ECCC.[35] The sentence was extended to life in prison on appeal.[36]

Nuon Chea

Nuon Chea before the tribunal on 5 December 2011

During the rule of the Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea acted as the right-hand man of leader, Pol Pot. Allegations against Nuon Chea include crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation imprisonment, torture, persecution on political, racial, and religious grounds), genocide, and serious breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (willful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, willfully depriving a prisoner of war or civilian the rights of fair and regular trial, unlawful deportation or unlawful confinement of a civilian).[37]

Nuon Chea joined the Communist Party of Kampuchea (the Khmer Rouge's official name) while studying law at Thammasat University in Bangkok.[37] In 1960 he was appointed Deputy Secretary to oversee the security of the party and the state. His charges included Phnom Penh's S-21—the notorious interrogation and torture center. It is estimated that Nuon Chea is responsible for the death of 1.7 million people during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.[38]

In 1998, Nuon Chea reached an agreement with the Cambodian Government which allowed him to live near the Thai border. He was arrested and put into custody in 2007. His case, number 002, has been under investigation since 2007 and hearings began in 2011.[39] Although Chea is the highest-ranking official to be detained he denies the majority of his involvement in the Khmer Rouge: "I was president of the National Assembly and had nothing to do with the operation of the government. Sometimes I didn't know what they were doing because I was in the assembly".[40]

On 7 August 2014, he received a life sentence for crimes against humanity.[25] He will still face a trial for the separate genocide charges at the tribunal.[41]

Ieng Sary

Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary during the third day of preliminary hearing on fitness to stand trial, 31 August 2011

Ieng Sary allegedly joined the Khmer Rouge in 1963. Before he studied in France where he joined the French Communist Party and upon his return to Cambodia, he joined CPK. When the Khmer Rouge took control in 1975, Ieng became the Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs. When the regime fell in 1979, Ieng fled to Thailand and was convicted of genocide and sentenced to death by the People's Revolutionary Tribunal of Phnom Penh. Ieng remained a member of the Khmer Rouge government in exile until 1996 when he was granted a royal pardon for his conviction and royal amnesty for this outlawing of the Khmer Rouge.[42]

Ieng Sary was arrested on 12 November 2007. He is alleged responsible (through his acts or omissions) for planning, instigating, ordering, aiding/abetting, or overseeing of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. Allegations against Ieng Sary include crimes against humanity, genocide and breaches of the Geneva Convention.[43]

Ieng Sary died in March 2013.

Ieng Thirith

Ieng Thirith on trial in 2011

Ieng Thirith, wife of Ieng Sary and sister-in-law of Pol Pot, was a senior member of the Khmer Rouge. She studied in France and was the first Cambodian to receive a degree in English. Upon her return to Cambodia, she joined CPK and was allegedly appointed Minister of Social Affairs in Democratic Kampuchea.[44]

Thirith remained with the Khmer Rouge until her husband, Ieng Sary, was pardoned by the Cambodian government in 1998. After, she and Sary lived together near Phnom Penh until both were arrested by Cambodian police and tribunal officials on 12 November 2007.

Thirith is allegedly responsible for the planning, instigating, and aiding/abetting the crimes of the Khmer Rouge against Cambodians during the time of Khmer Rouge control. Allegations against Thirith include crimes against humanity, genocide and breaches of the Geneva Convention. In November 2011, Ieng Thirith was found to be mentally unfit to stand trial, due to Alzheimer's disease.[45]

Ieng Thirith died in August 2015.[46]

Khieu Samphan

Khieu Samphan before the Cambodia Tribunal on July 2009

Khieu Samphan acted as one of the Khmer Rouge's most powerful officials. Before joining the Khmer Rouge, Khieu Samphan was Secretary of State for Trade for the Sihanouk regime in 1962. Under threat of Sihanouk's security forces, Samphan went into hiding in 1969 and emerged as a member of the Khmer Rouge in the early 70s. He was appointed Democratic Kampuchea's Head of State and succeeded Pol Pot as leader of the Khmer Rouge in 1987.

Khieu Samphan pledged allegiance to the Cambodian government in 1998 and left the Khmer Rouge. He was arrested on 12 November 2007 for crimes against humanity, genocide and violations of the Geneva Convention.[47]

On August 7, 2014, he received life sentences for crimes against humanity.[25]

Controversy surrounding Cases 003 and 004

Former Khmer Rouge navy commander Meas Muth remains free despite the issuance of 2 outstanding arrest warrants. These arrest warrants have not been acted upon by police officials and Muth continues to live in relative peace in Battambang province, while his Case 003, as it is known, continues to be opposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The three Cambodian judges on the panel have defended their opposition by stating that an arrest “in Cambodian society, is regarded as humiliating and affecting Meas Muth’s honour, dignity and rights substantially and irremediably.” Muth is charged with homicide and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in a number of different locations around the country and its islands.[48]

Resignation of Judges

In June 2011, the court experienced significant public controversy following the release of a public statement by International Co-Prosecutor Andrew Cayley criticising the Co-Investigating Judges for closing their investigation of Case 003 prematurely, including an accusation that the judges were attempting to "bury" the case.[49] The defendants charged in Case 003 are Meas Muth and Sou Met, two Khmer Rouge army commanders who allegedly oversaw the arrests and transportation of prisoners to the S-21 prison.[50] This statement followed international concerns that the court might succumb to government pressures not to indict additional defendants. German Co-Investigating Judge Siegfried Blunk criticised Cayley's statement as a violation of the court's internal confidentiality rules.[51]

After Siegfried Blunk resigned from his job unexpectedly in March 2012 over the government's statements opposing further prosecutions, it was said that while he was not influenced by political statements, "his ability to withstand such pressure by government officials to perform his duties independently, could always be called in doubt, and this would also call in doubt the integrity of the whole proceedings," of Case 003 and 004. Judge Blunk had been a controversial figure since he assumed the seat of French judge Marcel Lemonde (French) who resigned in 2010, to investigate cases 003 and 004.[52]

After international co-investigating Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet (Swiss) left his job unexpectedly, it cast more doubt on the court's ability to pursue more cases such as Case 003 and 004 against the ailing Khmer Rouge leaders.[53]

Similar allegations of political pressure have been alleged in case 004. Case 004 involves former mid-level Khmer Rouge commanders Im Chaem, Ta Ann and Ta Tith. Chaem ran a forced labor camp involving a massive irrigation project in Preah Net Preah and Ta Ann and Ta Tith were two deputies who oversaw massacres in the camp. Since then, Ta Tith has become a wealthy businessman in Cambodia and Im Chaem has become a commune chief in Cambodia's Anlong Veng District, further speculating political pressure would come to drop charges if these three were ever tried together.[54]

As early as November 2010, the Defence Support Section attempted to assign lawyers to represent the interests of the suspects in Cases 003 and 004.[11]

Domestic response

All 482 seats in the public gallery are occupied, 29 August 2013

The ECCC has received a wide range of public support. For instance, participation in the court's activities has reached more than 353,000 people through extensive outreach initiatives. In Case 001, 36,493 people observed the trial and appeal hearings. In Case 002, the first trial involving multiple Khmer Rouge leaders, 98,670 people attended the 212-day trial hearings. In addition, nearly 67,000 people from rural areas in Cambodia have attended ECCC community video screenings.[55] The ECCC has also taken steps to involve younger members of the community by educating them on the court proceedings.[55] According to a survey conducted by the International Republican Institute, 67% of the respondents replied that they "very much agree" with a trial against the top Khmer Rouge leaders.[56] However, in a more recent population survey conducted by University of California, Berkeley, 83% of the respondents agreed that the ECCC should be involved in responding to what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime.[57] The same survey also concluded that the awareness of the ECCC had increased from 2008–2010.


There are many criticisms involving the ECCC. For instance there has been significant controversy surrounding the closings of Case 003 and Case 004. Many international critics say these closings stem from a reluctance by the Cambodian government to try Khmer Rouge officials who managed to switch alliances towards the end of the conflict.

Furthermore, the ECCC has been criticized for its general stagnancy in relation to its finances. In financing the tribunal, the Cambodian government and the United Nations are both responsible for managing the cost of operations of the ECCC. Between 2006 and 2012, $173.3 million were spent on the ECCC. Out of the $173.3 million, Cambodia has contributed $42.1 million, while the United Nations has donated the other $131.2 million. For the year 2013, Cambodia has a budget of $9.4 million to spend, while the United Nations has $26 million, making the total budget for that year $35.4 million.[55] However, as of 2014, the ECCC had cost over $200,000,000, in which, at that point, only one case has been completed.[58] Many in the international committee demand an outside committee to review the failures of the ECCC thus far. In accordance, many urge countries such as Japan, Germany, France, the United States, and the United Kingdom to stop financing the ECCC until it becomes a more transparent and independent court.[59]

The court has also been criticized for its rejections of victim applications. A victim applying to participate in Case 003 was rejected because the judges claimed her psychological harm to be "highly unlikely to be true" and through a narrow definition of "direct victim", determined her an indirect victim in the case. The Open Society Justice Initiative calls for the UN to investigate the proceedings of the ECCC. A trial monitor for the OSJI claimed that the recent proceedings "don't meet basic requirements or adhere to international standards or even comply with the court's own prior jurisprudence."[60] In late February 2012, the court requested another $92 million to cover its operating cost for 2012 and 2013.[61]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b Upholding international standards: Defence Support Section appoints counsel to represent the interests of the suspects in cases 003 and 004, Rupert Abbott, DSS Officer-in-Charge, 30 November 2010.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ a b c d e
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b c d
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ a b
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^ a b c
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^

External links

  • The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia- Official site
  • United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials- Official site
  • The Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force
  • Cambodia Tribunal Monitor
  • Khmer Rouge Tribunal Updates from Genocide Watch
  • The Cambodian Genocide Project
  • General ECCC Watch/ECCC Reparations Process Watch
  • Flickr photostream of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
  • "Justice Denied" by Douglas Gillison, Foreign Policy, 23 November 2011
  • Procedural history note and audiovisual material on the Agreement between the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia concerning the prosecution under Cambodian law of crimes committed during the period of Democratic Kampuchea in the Historic Archives of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law
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