Just as the Khmer Rouge tribunal was hearing evidence on the health of accused Nuon Chea, 13 civil party representatives from 11 provinces voiced their concerns about the trial yesterday morning, some betraying a loss of faith, and a universal sense that the court risked becoming “a failure”.
Speaking at a conference hosted by the rights group Adhoc, representative Pich Srey Phal said the court had to bring its current case to a swift end, saying it had dragged on for years while offering victims little in the way of justice, and less in the way of a satisfactory explanation for the Khmer Rouge regime from the mouths of its accused leaders.
“Will the victims receive justice? Up till now, the accused in Case 002 have died leaving behind mystery, while the living refuse to speak,” she said.
“What if one day the ECCC gets stuck? Where can the victims find justice?”
Representative Pen Saroeun, who had perhaps the harshest words for the court, accused the body of drawing proceedings out for monetary interest.
“I have completely lost my confidence in the court,” he said.
“The elderly [accused] are always ill and will finally die...That is the court’s intention, to protect the accused from being tried, and to think only about their interests: their salaries.”
S-21 survivor Chum Mey urged the court to complete Case 002 by year’s end in order to ensure that Nuon Chea – who has been in and out of the hospital in recent months – can live to see a verdict, maintaining that without the regime’s former number two, the trial might as well end.
Civil party lead co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau-Fort, on the other hand, cautioned against lending Sary’s death too much weight, noting that “death is not the only thing happening in the court; it should not dictate how the court proceeds”.
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said that the court is indeed trying to find ways to pick up the pace – such as re-severing the case into faster sub-trials – but defended the court’s track record of moving forward in the face of criticism.
“It is their right to accuse us, but right now the court is taking action to find justice for the victims,” he said.
“They accused the court of failing to issue arrest warrants... And they said we couldn’t proceed on to Case 002, but we did.”
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org
With assistance from Joe Freeman