Monday, September 1, saw the start of a weeklong Plenary Session at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). In light of the Pre-Trial Chamber's recent consideration of civil party participation, it appears very likely that discussion of procedures governing such participation will feature high on the Plenary's agenda.
Despite initially adopting a progressive approach, the Pre-Trial Chamber's treatment of civil party participation has been restrictive of late. On July 1, for example, the Judges refused to allow an unrepresented civil party to address the Chamber in person. This has caused many to question whether the Judges remain committed to the continued implementation of a system of meaningful participation for victims. The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee has expressed concern that the Judges may amend the Internal Rules (IRs) at the Plenary to limit civil parties' rights.While recognising that inappropriately managed civil party participation may cause delay, we urge the Judges to respect civil parties' existing rights.
At present the IRs reflect the relevant Cambodian procedures for civil party participation and accord civil parties various rights, including the right to introduce evidence and summon witnesses, the right to request reparation and the right to (but not requirement of) legal representation.
Any limitation of civil parties' rights beyond these limits would violate the ECCC Law and UN-RGC Agreement. Furthermore, the Judges should remember that civil parties have joined the proceedings expecting to be treated as full parties. Restriction of civil parties' rights would cause disappointment and compromise their ability to participate as full parties. Instead, the Judges should commit themselves to more robust management of the proceedings.
Terith Chy (Team Leader)
Sarah Thomas (Legal Fellow)
Victim Participation Project (VPA)
Documentation Centre of Cambodia