War crimes in focus as exhibit opens

Visitors walk through the Justice Matters exhibition at Utrecht University earlier this year
Visitors walk through the Justice Matters exhibition at Utrecht University earlier this year. COURTESY OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

War crimes in focus as exhibit opens

An exhibition illustrating the work done to punish war criminals, created by the International Criminal Court (ICC), will open today to mark the Day of International Criminal Justice.

“Cambodian people will be able to see that international justice can happen not only in Cambodia,” said Rodolphe Prom, president of Destination Justice, which co-organised the exhibition at The Mansion.

The multimedia exhibition, titled Justice Matters, was compiled at the ICC’s headquarters in The Hague and features images of the victims of indicted and convicted war criminals. In one photo, a young man holds a pencil sketch of marauding militants killing civilians, while another shows a man with a mutilated nose and amputated upper lip.

The exhibition also features portraits of infamous accused war criminals, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rebel leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, and the late former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Videos of speeches by ICC leaders and court proceedings will also be featured.

Although the ICC has no direct involvement with the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Destination Justice volunteers will provide commentary linking the ICC’s objectives with the ongoing trials against Pol Pot’s senior lieutenants.

“We can see that there is a commitment toward international justice with the tribunal here in Cambodia,” said Prom, adding that the ICC was ineligible to lead the Khmer Rouge Tribunal under its own rules because the alleged crimes predate the ICC’s formation.

When asked if local interest in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is fading, Prom said that the process has endured bouts of enthusiasm and pessimism among Cambodians.

“It has its ups and downs, and this is obviously a long trial, and sometimes interest will fade, and sometimes it will come back,” he said.

The youth in particular, said Prom, are more supportive than ever of international criminal justice.

“The young population in Phnom Penh is quite interested, and there are a lot of local programs and [they are] involved also in these programs,” he said, citing programs from the Royal University of Law and Economics that stress the importance of international justice.

Destination Justice, which is a member of the international Coalition for the ICC, became involved with Justice Matters through the China-based legal NGO and fellow coalition member Chinese Initiative for International Criminal Justice. The two countries decided to partner up to bring the exhibition, which was originally shown at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, to Cambodia.

Cambodia, with the Philippines, is one of just two Southeast Asian countries to have joined the ICC, but Prom said he hopes the number will grow.

“This is part of the coalition for ICC’s work, and it is not an easy direction, but that is our [main] work in Asia.”

The exhibition opens at The Mansion, behind the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, at 8am today.

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