Online proceedings for the IRCT General Assembly and 10th International Scientific Symposium - Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation

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Elusive retributive justice in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia: Challenges of using ECCC Victim Information Forms as a victim participatory rights mechanism

Presenter(s) and co-author(s): Dr. Leakhena Nou ( California State University - United States of America )

Background

This paper focuses on the procedural challenges of using the Victim Information Forms (VIFs) to analyze survivors’ experiences with the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The paper takes a systematic public/medical sociology approach to examining the VIF as a participatory rights mechanism for victims wishing to pursue justice for themselves and their loved ones who experienced the Khmer Rouge atrocities—torture, forced relocation, starvation, forced labor, rape, robbery, and other physical and psychological torments—firsthand.

Methodology

This paper takes a systematic public/medical sociology approach to examining the VIF as a participatory rights mechanism in the ECCC for victims wishing to pursue justice for themselves and their loved ones who experienced the Khmer Rouge atrocities firsthand. The ECCC focuses on retributive justice as it seeks individual accountability and punishment, usually in the form of a criminal trial. Restorative justice, on the other hand, refers to promoting reconciliation between survivors and perpetrators. The participants in this research hoped to achieve both types of justice through filing VIFs and thereby participating in some way in the ECCC’s proceedings. Such participation allows survivors the comfort of knowing both that their voices have been heard and that history will know of their suffering. For many survivors in this research, these are both critical components of their ongoing process of healing and their struggle to reconcile the past with the present and build a stronger Cambodia where genocide will never occur again.

Results

This paper provides the first comparative, critical analysis of both the original VIF and the revised form issued midway through the submission period; both forms appear as appendices to the paper. There is much to learn from the ECCC’s handling of the filing process for all applicants--those living in Cambodia as well as those in communities around the world. The specific shortcomings of the original and revised VIFs discussed in this paper are pertinent not only to the Cambodian case, but also—as cautionary tales—to other post-conflict countries intending to include survivors of genocide, political violence, or human rights abuses in the pursuit of justice through victim participation in court proceedings. Even with the best intentions of bringing the perpetrators to justice and including the victims in a meaningful way in that process, the ECCC faced unforeseen challenges.

Funding & No Conflicts Declaration

No conflicts of interest.

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