Court monitor ADHOC (the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association) has decried the tribunal's refusal to accept Tuol Sleng survivor Norng Chan Pal as a civil party in the case of "Comrade Duch."
Researchers for DC-Cam recently located Norng, one of five child survivors identified in archival footage of Tuol Sleng. He was detained there with his mother.
Despite his status as one of the torture center's few survivors, Norng has been told he cannot become a civil party in Duch's case. He missed the Feb. 2 filing deadline by two days.
"We consider any refusal to accept a civil party application in such circumstances as a serious breach of victim's right to participate in the Khmer Rouge trials, and derives from an internal rule that unnecessarily restricts victims rights beyond those enjoyed under Cambodian law," ADHOC wrote in a statement released Friday.
The ECCC's internal rules are more strict than those of the Cambodian Criminal Procedure Code, which allow civil parties to join a case anytime before the prosecutor begins his closing arguments.
"Victims should not be penalized for late applications given the clear limits of information and advice available relating to the ECCC," the statement continues. "Victims should not be forced to be spectators to a process that they wish to engage in."
ADHOC goes on to request that the court loosen its application rules and, at the very least, allow Tuol Sleng survivors to become civil parties in the case of Tuol Sleng's torture chief.
The debate over this missed deadline has raised a familiar question in my mind: Why do many Khmer Rouge survivors seem hesitant to come forward and participate in legal action against the regime's leaders? Yes, a good number of civil party applications and complaints have been filed, but I still encounter many people who I think could very well qualify as civil parties, yet they seemingly have no interest in doing so.
I would be curious to get your thoughts on this matter.
Is it because outreach efforts are insufficient? Are people nervous about the prospect of retribution? Do people distrust the court? Are some simply too emotionally scarred to dredge up their past sufferings?
In other civil party news, attorneys for Khmer Rouge victims at the court are requesting that prosecutors open new investigations into Duch's role in organizing forced marriages. An article appears in Monday's Post.
* Pictured: Tuol Sleng survivor Norng Chan Pal.