Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin has informed foreign diplomats representing 10 donor countries that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, will finish its last case by the end of this year and will focus on archiving thereafter.
The ECCC was established to bring all surviving high-ranking members of the Khmer Rouge to justice for the crimes they committed either directly or indirectly as the top leaders of the genocidal regime who are most responsible for the atrocities that took place between 1975 and 1979.
Chhin, who heads up the Council of Ministers, met with representatives and diplomats from the 10 donor countries that have contributed to the ECCC – including the US, UK, Australia, France, Japan and Sweden – with their delegation led by Alexandra Hutchison of Australia and Hanna Dreifeldt, a senior legal official from the UN, on July 6.
Chhin said the ECCC had successfully fulfilled its mandate and therefore its last case will come to a close by the end of this year.
“The ECCC has successfully tried the cases that were sent to its courtroom and can now close down its operations once the legal procedures for the final case are completed in the last trimester of this year,” he told the delegation.
However, Chhin said the ECCC will still have two other important tasks to fulfill as previously determined in an agreement signed between the Cambodian government and the UN.
The first task, he said, is the management of the archives of information on the events of the Khmer Rouge period which were gathered together as part of the investigations or for use as evidence in the cases.
The manner of preservation of these archives must follow international standards as well as provide the public with a means to access these documents freely and easily, according to Chhin.
He said the second task is to spread the word about the achievements of the ECCC in bringing about some measure of justice and a more complete understanding of the darkest era in the Kingdom’s history by educating the younger generations about it in order to prevent the recurrence of genocide, both in Cambodia and around the world.
He also said that the government will continue to provide funding to the ECCC so that it may fulfill these remaining functions and he urged all ECCC donors to continue to provide their support to the tribunal.
“The continuous cooperation from the international community in providing financial support will help the ECCC’s transition process to its next phase go smoothly, successfully and with dignity,” he said.
He also thanked the international community, all donor countries and the UN for their support, without which the ECCC’s achievements would never have been possible.
He also noted the important precedent set by the ECCC, which can be viewed as a model for future international tribunals to reference when faced with the difficult task of trying heinous crimes against humanity should the need arise in the future, he said.
The diplomats’ meeting with Chhin were all in agreement regarding the importance and value of the ECCC’s achievements, including the trust and good working relationship the tribunal enjoyed with the Cambodian government.
“The donor countries have all committed to continue to support the remaining work of the tribunal, both in archive management and also through outreach efforts and education, which will help with the protection of the tribunal’s legacy in a way that will allow the ECCC to successfully finish their mission by the end of this year with well-earned pride for their accomplishments,” said Alexandra Hutchison.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) which maintains the world’s largest repository of the Khmer Rouge documents, said the ECCC’s legacy as part of Cambodia’s historic reconciliation process and its reckoning with its brutal past was undeniable, but the focus should now shift to assisting those Cambodians living in rural areas that have never really recovered from the depredations of the civil war and the destruction incurred during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror.
“Legacies must also be about what comes next and the future. We should give every Cambodian an equal chance at a new beginning. To ensure that happens, I would focus on community development in the rural areas – which would also directly benefit some of the greatest victims of that period – and these initiatives should be led by survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide,” he said.