The Victims Support Section (VSS) of the Khmer Rouge tribunal announced yesterday that it has secured sufficient funding for 12 of its 13 recommended projects for reparations, a development that comes after months of frenzied fundraising, at times even by civil party lawyers themselves.
More than $770,000 was secured for the 12 projects, which include symbolic measures like a national day of remembrance for victims and survivors, psychological services for victims in the form of testimonial therapy and self-help groups, and a sculpture evoking the forced march out of Phnom Penh in 1975 to be constructed near the French Embassy.
According to the VSS announcement, the projects “aim to provide formal acknowledgement to the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime in order to mitigate the harm and suffering they have experienced, to preserve collective memory and to restore victims’ dignity”.
The court’s internal rules forbid it from offering individual monetary reparations to civil parties, allowing it instead to devise “collective and moral reparations” projects.
If a guilty verdict is reached, the court will decide whether to officially implement the projects, taking into account not only their funding status, but also whether they appropriately address the collective harm suffered by recognised victims of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, during which nearly two million people died.
A verdict in the first phase of the current trial, Case 002/01 – which is trying the regime’s remaining senior leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – is expected in the coming months.
“If there is a conviction, then it is also possible that a decision on reparations will be [included] in the same judgement,” court legal communications officer Lars Olsen said.
Securing funding for the civil party reparations was far from a sure thing. With no explicit guidelines regarding fundraising in the court’s internal rules, the job of drumming up money fell to the VSS and to lawyers themselves, and the deadline for filing final submissions on reparations was pushed back at least once due to insufficient funds.
The one project that still has not received sufficient funding was a proposal to build a handful of memorials throughout the country.
As to whether the project could be revisited in the future if funding materialises, Olsen said that the matter was “a hypothetical situation that will have to be dealt with” if it arises.