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Public still unclear on role of civil parties at ECCC

Public still unclear on role of civil parties at ECCC

Dear Editor,

I read with great interest your article titled Civil parties want to make opening statement (October 10).

However, Panhavuth Long, a program officer for the Cambodian Justice Initiative, is wrong in asserting that the "civil parties are considered to be parties to the proceedings, but in this case, [their statement] is going to be [about] collective and symbolic reparations – it’s not about genocide and war crimes in case 002/02, not whether [the accused] are guilty or not guilty”.

On the contrary, as explained in our request, the lead co-lawyers for civil parties have no intention of making a statement on reparation awards (they already had the opportunity to present initial specification of the reparation awards they intend to seek in case 002/02 at the initial hearing on July 30); but rather they want to explain the way in which civil parties intend to participate in criminal proceedings in case 002/02 and contribute to the truth-finding mandate of the court – the other, equally important prong of their two-fold mandate before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

During case 002/01, the evidence brought by the civil parties during trial was not only relevant but essential to the ascertainment of the truth. Several hundred written testimonies have been submitted by the civil parties in the course of the trial and admitted into evidence by the chamber. In addition, the civil parties have submitted themselves to examination before the chamber. Through these written and oral testimonies, the civil parties have provided an overwhelming quantity of corroborative first-hand evidence on the crimes committed in Democratic Kampuchea and their impact on the population.

We consider that an indispensable aspect of promoting transparency and informing victims and more generally the public – both objectives being at the core of the court’s mandate – is to ensure that the actors specifically tasked with representing civil parties – the lead co-lawyers – are permitted to inform of the manner in which they envisage civil party participation in the trial, the interests that they represent and the perspective that they bring to the proceedings. By granting the lead co-lawyers an opportunity to intervene briefly at what is one of the most important and most closely followed moments in the trial proceedings, the chamber would also send a clear message to the general public, the civil parties and victims themselves that victim experiences are acknowledged and that their participation is valued.

Indeed, reading Panhavuth Long’s comment, it seems clear that the public still needs to be informed on the specific role of civil parties at the ECCC. Allowing their representatives to make a brief opening statement would contribute to fulfil that objective.

Marie Guiraud
International Lead Co-Lawyer for Civil Parties

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