A new version of the court's Internal Rules was released Monday and some who had worried changes might limit the rights of civil parties found revisions "not as drastic as we had feared," according to DC-Cam legal fellow Sarah Thomas.
Still, civil party activists believe that changes to a rule governing admissibility of civil party applications could prove detrimental to victim participation. Previously, it appeared that the court would allow civil parties to appeal applications that had been denied. While the right to appeal is outlined regarding orders from the Co-Investigating Judges (Rule 23-3), no explicit provision for appeal is stated in the case of rejection by the Trial Chamber (Rule 23-4), Thomas said.
"Civil party applicants should have a right to appeal an order on the admissibility of their application, regardless of which Judges make it," according to Thomas. "As it stands now, Rule 23-4 places applicants who apply later in the proceedings (once the case file has been transferred to the Trial Chamber) at a disadvantage vis-a-vis applicants who apply during the investigative stage."
If civil parties are not allowed to appeal orders from the Trial Chamber, the issue could come to the fore in the near future.
Several civil party applications are pending in the case of "Comrade Duch," the admissibility of which will most likely be decided by the Trial Chamber. Thomas said it is unclear what kind of "proof of harm" will be required by the Trial Chamber in order for these civil party applications to be accepted.
It is likely that some of these applicants will not be able to produce documentary evidence (such as confessions or an S21 biography).
"Some may only have photos of their relatives from Tuol Sleng with no related documentary records. Others may have no evidence at all," according to Thomas.
With the rules as they are, if the Trial Chamber finds these pending applications inadequate, no recourse is guaranteed.