Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Four Judges and Top KRT Officials Will Attend Workshops in Bangkok, Thailand



25/05/2006

Four Cambodian lawyers and top officials for the Khmer Rouge tribunal will attend a two-day workshop in Bangkok, Thailand Saturday to study the cases in East Timor in gaining experiences for the trial of the former Khmer Rouge leaders, alleges a spokesman for the Extraordinary Chambers.

Khmer Rouge tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath says that this unique workshop is sponsored by a group of U.S.-based legal experts from the center for war crimes at the University of California at Berkely, and the East West Center of the University of Hawaii at Honolulu.

He says that those participants have experiences in international war crimes.

He says that administration director Sean Visoth, and deputy director Michele Lee, legal affairs director Tony Kranh and Helen Jarvis will also attend.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Khmer king's brother opposes tribunal

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Senior palace official and half-brother of Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni said Friday that he opposed a trial of former leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, saying the 1975 to 1979 massacre was the result of foreign political manipulation.

Prince Norodom Yuvaneath, a son of former king Norodom Sihanouk, told reporters he believed a trial of former leaders of the ultra-Maoist regime, blamed for the deaths of up to two million Cambodians during its brief but bloody rule, was against the interests of national reconciliation.

The Supreme Royal Advisor said the rise of the Khmer Rouge was the result of manipulation by outside countries, including neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand. He said he felt pitting Cambodians against Cambodians again during a trial for crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge was not in the national interest.

"I really do not want to see a Khmer Rouge trial," Yuvaneath said at Phnom Penh International Airport, minutes before his father Sihanouk returned to Cambodia from cancer treatment in China.

"We had a war because of foreign interests ... we fought amongst Khmer people to serve only international interests and gave up our own national interests," he said.

"We are Buddhists. We follow the Buddhist way. No Cambodian by nature wants to do bad."

The proposed joint UN-Cambodian government tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders will only examine crimes committed between 1975 and 1979, before Vietnamese-backed troops overthrew the regime, and does not take into account any political events preceding or following that period.

Critics of a trial have said the scope of the trial is not broad enough because its timeframe is so limited.

But trial advocates say the majority of atrocities, committed by one of the most brutal regimes of the last century, occurred within that period and those responsible for genocide and human rights abuses should be held accountable.

The last Khmer Rouge guerilla fighters were only defeated by government troops in 1998.

Neither King Norodom Sihamoni nor his father, Norodom Sihanouk, have ever directly commented about the impending trials.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cambodia finally gets its day in court

By Verghese Mathews
Posted Thursday, 25 May 2006

More people in Cambodia have heard about Dame Silvia Cartwright in the past fortnight than at any time before, arguably, more than even when she was appointed the Governor-General of New Zealand in 2001, a position she will hold until August.

Unexpectedly, quietly and slowly, Dame Silvia is coming into the lives of the Cambodian people, the kingdom's robust media and its fractious politics, with her appointment as one of the international judges for the forthcoming Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Snippets in the media and the chat lines speak highly of her distinguished career as a lawyer, a jurist and a High Court judge, in fact the first woman to be appointed to that high post in New Zealand. Mention has also been made of her prominent role in the fight to eliminate discrimination against women - a celebrated cause in Cambodia.

There are 12 other international judges and prosecutors from Asia, Europe and North America, all nominated by the United Nations, about which, also, very little is known in Cambodia.

There is, therefore, increasing curiosity and a resulting awareness about the international judges for the first-ever trial of this nature in Asia. However, in sharp contrast, rather words have been reserved for at least one of the 17 Cambodian judges and prosecutors chosen by the highest local judicial body, the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, headed by King Norodom Sihamoni for the tribunal. This reaction is neither unexpected nor surprising.

Still, it is a remarkable achievement that the proposed tribunal has finally reached this far from its genesis in 1997 when the then Co-Prime Ministers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Samdech Hun Sen wrote to the UN Secretary-General for assistance in establishing a trial to bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes committed during the ultra-Maoist Pol Pot regime.

What is probably long forgotten is that the prime reason for seeking UN assistance was not merely because the crimes had an international dimension or relevance, but more so because of the explicit admission that the Cambodian judiciary neither had the expertise nor the resources to conduct such a complex trial.

Some background is useful for perspective. Under the Khmer Rouge most of the judiciary either died or were killed, as were an estimated 1.7 million other Cambodians. The more fortunate escaped the clutches of the regime and resettled in third countries. The result was that when the Khmer Rouge was finally ousted from Phnom Penh in 1979 by invading Vietnamese forces, the newly installed Cambodian government had to build the judiciary from scratch. That was necessarily a painfully slow process for a cash-strapped and inadequately-trained government that was simultaneously working at building an education service, a health service and an administrative service - all from scratch.

Invariably trusted community elders and senior party officials were chosen by the new government's politburo to carry out primary judicial functions though, undoubtedly in the earlier years, the main objective of the emerging judiciary was to ensure the social stability of the fledgling regime.

This, then, was how the present day Cambodian judiciary began some 27 years ago. In the interim, students were sent overseas for training, particularly to Vietnam initially, and gradually an adequately trained coterie has taken its place in the judiciary, though there are still some from the earlier intakes awaiting retirement.

Detractors point out that the Cambodian judiciary is not among the more respected institutions in the country. This unfortunately is so. However, there are those who counter that it is still grossly unfair to paint the whole institution with one broad brush because of a few. Where the tribunal is concerned, given its very structure and transparency, the Cambodian judges will invariably come under greater scrutiny and will be benchmarked against the best of international judges. The hope is that the total experience will contribute to, and accelerate the maturity of, the Cambodian judiciary.

The tribunal comes with a long name - Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea. It is popularly known by the shorter name, "Extraordinary Chamber"s or "EC".

The EC will have the power to try suspects charged with committing crimes under both Cambodian and international laws, i.e., genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in addition to murder, torture and religious persecution.

The EC will have two chambers, the first being the Trial Court, made up of three Cambodian and two international judges. For a decision to be reached the principle of a “super majority” will apply; i.e., four out of the five judges must support the decision: this means that every decision must have both Cambodian and international support.

The other chamber, the Supreme Court - an appeals chamber - will comprise four Cambodian and three international judges and will require five judges to uphold an appeal decision.

If a super majority decision cannot be arrived at in either of the courts, the accused is released as his guilt would not have been established. If the accused is found guilty, the maximum sentence will be life imprisonment. The accused will escape the gallows as Cambodia has abolished the death penalty. In a country where pardons and amnesties are not uncommon, the government has indicated that neither will be granted to persons found guilty.

The courts will only try crimes committed between April 17, 1975 and January 6, 1979, all of three years, eight months and 20 days. Only those "most responsible for serious crimes" will be tried: envisaged to be less than ten. The actual trials are expected to begin early next year although prosecuting judges are expected to start work from the middle of this year.

The Cambodian people have waited for almost a generation for these trials. While there will be different expectations, there must surely be some unspoken pride that the trial will be conducted in Cambodia where the crimes took place, under Cambodian and international laws, and with Cambodian and international judges like Dame Silvia Cartwright.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Khmer Rouge tribunal in brief

Phnom Penh Post, Issue 15 / 10
May 19 - June 1, 2006
Who knows what


Here's a rundown on the educational background and language skills of the 17 Cambodian judges and prosecutors reported to have been selected as judicial officers for the Khmer Rouge Trial by the Supreme Council of Magistracy, according to the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development.

* 11 persons speak none or little-to-fair levels of language required by the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia, while the information on 1 person (Ney Thol) could not be obtained.

* 3 persons speak no foreign language: Thong Ol, Kong Srim and Yar Sokhan.

* 5 persons speak little English: Yon Bun Leng, Thou Mony, Yar Narin, Sin Rith and Nil Nonn.

* 2 persons speak fair English: Chea Leang and Huot Vuthy.

* 6 persons speak fluent English or French (almost one-third of 17 judges and prosecutors), namely:
- 3 persons speak fluent English: Pen Pich Saly, You Ottara and Mong Monichakriya.
- 3 persons speak fluent French: Chuon Sun Leng, Prak Kim San and Som Sereyvuth.

* 1 person did not receive an educational degree in law, but is a teacher of high school: Prak Kim San.

* 2 persons only completed high school-level education: Thon Ol and Som Sereyvuth.

* 6 persons received Bachelor Degrees in Law: You Bun Leng, Chuon Sun Leng, Nil Nonn, Yar Sokhan, Thou Mony and Kong Srim.

* 5 persons received Master Degrees in Law: Chea Leang, Huot Vuthy, Pen Pich Saly, You Ottara and Mong Monichakriya.

* 2 persons received Doctorate Degrees in Law from National University of Kazakhstan: Yar Narin and Sin Rith.

* 5 persons received no law degree and/or have not attended the previous trainings, namely:
- 2 persons received no law degree and have not attended the previous trainings: Thong Ol and Som Sereyvuth.
- 2 persons received no law degree: Chea Leang and Pen Pich Saly.
-1 person has not attended the previous trainings: Chuon Sun Leng.

Clarification

The list headed Khmer Rouge trial judicial officers in the Phnom Penh Post dated May 5, 2006, originated from the Voice of America. The staff of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia did not guarantee its accuracy.

© Michael Hayes, 2006. All rights revert to authors and artists on publication.
For permission to publish any part of this publication, contact Michael Hayes, Editor-in-Chief
http://www.PhnomPenhPost.com - Any comments on the website to Webmaster

Cambodia judges' credibility questioned

By KER MUNTHIT
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Monday, May 22, 2006 · Last updated 1:22 a.m. PT

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- As preparations to try former Khmer Rouge leaders move forward, legal experts are concerned the dubious records of some Cambodian judges will cast doubt on the credibility of the country's war crimes tribunal.

Cambodia and the United Nations agreed in 2003, after years of negotiations, to establish the U.N.-backed tribunal to seek justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died during the murderous 1975-79 rule of the communist Khmer Rouge.

This past week, King Norodom Sihamoni approved the appointment of 30 Cambodian and U.N.-chosen foreign judicial officials, and there are now hopes that trials can begin early next year for surviving Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.

But some critics are worried because Cambodia's judiciary has had a reputation for incompetence, corruption and serving the government's political agenda.

The foreign jurists come from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Poland, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and the United States. Many have multiple law degrees and years of experience in international criminal justice, with two having served with the U.N. tribunal on war crimes and genocide in Kosovo.

The resumes of the Cambodian judges are threadbare by comparison, and their reputations shaky.

Their appointment "tarnishes right from the start the image of that tribunal, and because of that, it would lack public confidence and trust," said Lao Monghay, a Cambodian legal analyst working with the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

Little information is available about the Cambodian judges other than the fact that most received law degrees in the former Soviet communist bloc - places such as East Germany, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam - where carrying out the state's wishes counted more than impartiality.

One tribunal judge, army general Ney Thol, is president of the military court and member of the central committee of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party. He is best known for presiding at two major trials where Hun Sen's political opponents were convicted of national security-related crimes.

In 1998, Ney Thol sentenced Prince Norodom Ranariddh, leader of the royalist Funcinpec party, to 30 years in prison for weapons smuggling and conspiring with outlawed Khmer Rouge guerrillas. The trial was prompted mainly by Hun Sen's desire to neuter his main political rival, whom he had already ousted from his position as co-prime minister in a 1997 coup.

Last August, Ney Thol sentenced opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy to seven years in prison for trying to form an armed group to topple the government in another trial widely regarded as politically motivated. He was criticized for his conduct in the trial, during which he barred the defense from calling witnesses and from fully cross-examining prosecution witnesses.

Both opposition leaders were later freed by royal pardons.

Ney Thol said having been a judge since 1987 qualifies him for the Khmer Rouge tribunal. "I have gone through many short courses (of legal training) inside and outside the country," he said. "I am honored to be one of the appointees."

Another tribunal judge, Thou Mony, once overturned a lower court's guilty ruling against Hun Sen's nephew, who had been involved in a shooting spree in 2003 in which two people were killed and two others wounded.

"I am very proud to have been appointed," said the Cambodian appeals court judge, who was educated at the University of Leipzig in the former East Germany. "I had never dreamed of that."

David Scheffer, a former U.S. ambassador at large on war crimes issues, said the Cambodian judges will be watched carefully by the international community.

"If the performance of the judges begins to be called into question in a way that goes to the issue of their integrity, their independence ... then you can imagine at some point the United Nations would take a serious look at that in terms of their continued participation in the process," said Scheffer, now a visiting law professor at Northwestern University.

The government projects a shaky confidence in its judges.

Cambodian jurists "will try their best to meet international standards" in working with "their international counterparts of high caliber," Sean Visoth, the government-appointed tribunal's chief administrator, said recently.

Ex-KR Say Judges From CPP Would Be Biased

By Thet Sambath
The Cambodia Daily
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

In a rare and unusual meeting of minds, several ex-Khmer Rouge officials joined local and international human rights groups in questioning the selection of judges and prosecutors for the long-awaited tribunal that will prosecute their former leaders.

Man Nim, a former Khmer Rouge military division commander who took orders directly from Pol Pot, said that courtroom appointees with political leanings could not judge impartially.

“I support having a trial,” said Man Nim, who claimed he moves from province to province staying with his supporters.

“But this trial must be done fairly and judges and prosecutors must not be from political parties,” he said. If the judges are members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP, as legal analyst Lao Mong Hay claimed last week, they would not be impartial as the CPP fought against the Khmer Rouge, he said.

“[The CPP] always accused Pol Pot of being the killer,” Man Nim said.

He added that the tribunal should also hold to account the foreign countries that supported the warring sides in the Cambodian conflict.

“I want to have a real court and judges in order to find the real killers and countries that were involved in the Cambodia disaster,” he said. “It was not only Khmers who killed Khmers.”

Loung Sy Uy, a former Koh Kong province Khmer Rouge soldier and current Pailin resident said the test of the tribunal would be whether current government officials who once served in the Khmer Rouge were also investigated.

“It is not fair for the top Khmer Rogue leaders if they just accuse a few of them,” he said. “If they accused former Khmer Rouge leaders who are now top leaders who are now top leaders in government, it is a fair trial,” he added.

Former Khmer Rouge doctor Chay Ly, also a Palin resident, said she feared the tribunal would only stoke hatred and a desire for revenge.

“They can’t get the truth because Pol Pot has died and living leaders will accuse him of acting alone,” she added.

But former Khmer Rouge Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, a likely candidate for prosecution, said he would leave his fate in the hands of the government and the UN.

“I am now 80 years old,” he said. “For the trial, let the government and the UN work and make decisions. I have no objection.”

Ven Ra, a former Khmer Rouge official and the president of the Sam Rainsy Party in Pailin, said that many in Pailin view the judicial lineup with suspicion.

“All of us in Pailin know that these judges and prosecutors are unable to find justice for the victims and former Khmer Rouge leaders,” he said. “They are working for their political party, the CPP.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Asian rights group doubts credibility of some Cambodia judges on Khmer Rouge tribunal

[JURIST] Legal experts with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) [advocacy website] have questioned the credibility of some of the Cambodian judges [AHRC statement] who have been approved to serve on a war crimes tribunal that will hear cases against former Khmer Rouge [Wikipedia backgrounder] leaders accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. Earlier this month, King Norodom Sihamoni [official profile; BBC profile] approved a list of 30 officials selected by Cambodia's Supreme Council of Magistracy to serve as judges and prosecutors [JURIST report] on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [KRT task force website; backgrounder], the joint Cambodia-UN tribunal. The jurists are from Cambodia, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Poland, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands, and the US. While many of the foreign officials have impressive resumes including several degrees and years of experience, the credentials of the Cambodian jurists seem to pale in comparison, according to the Hong Kong-based rights group.

Critics have expressed concern over the reputations of Cambodian judges which indicate a tendency to decide cases based on the government's political agenda, especially since many of the judges received their law degrees in the former Soviet communist bloc where impartiality was often sacrificed in judicial decisions. Earlier this month, visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louis Arbour stressed the importance of greater independence for members of the Cambodian judiciary [JURIST report]. The war crimes tribunal is expected to begin trying cases early next year after the United Nations [official website] urged a timely trial calendar [JURIST report] to begin proceedings for the deaths of 1.7 million people during the communist regime's rule from 1975-1979. AP has more.

Cambodian rally calls for Khmer Rouge trial to begin soon

May 22, 2006

Choeung Ek, Cambodia - Some 1,000 Cambodians gathered at one of the Khmer Rouge's main execution sites on Saturday and called for a tribunal to open soon to prosecute former leaders of the genocidal regime.

After years of wrangling, a joint UN-Cambodian tribunal is expected to start in July, but many Cambodians are angry that Khmer Rouge leaders -- among them Pol Pot, who died in 1998 -- have so far managed to escape justice and fear that more will die free men unless the court gets under way soon.

"I want the tribunal to start as soon as possible. I demand justice for those who died under the Khmer Rouge regime. The faster the tribunal starts, the better," said 63-year-old Not Noun who lost six relatives to the regime.

The ultra-Maoist regime turned Cambodia into a vast collective farm between 1975 and 1979 in their drive for an agrarian utopia, forcing millions into the countryside in what became one of the worst genocides of the 20th century.

At the Choeung Ek memorial, 15 kilometres (nine miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, some 1,000 people gathered Saturday as Buddhist monks chanted to pray for the Khmer Rouge's victims.

Choeung Ek was the main execution site for prisoners of the regime's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, or S-21, where some 16,000 men, women and children were tortured before being killed.

"Many of my relatives were killed by the regime. I want the trial to start soon and I hope there will be justice in the tribunal," said Phal Channy, a 45-year-old woman.

Cambodia's highest legal body appointed 17 Cambodian and 13 foreign court officials to the tribunal earlier this month, completing the final step before co-prosecutors -- one Cambodian and one foreign -- can begin work.

Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork and from execution during the four-year rule of the Khmer Rouge, which abolished religion, property rights, currency and schools.

So far only two former regime leaders have been jailed on genocide charges, while others -- including Pol Pot's top deputy Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary -- live freely in Cambodia.

All are elderly and suffer from poor health, raising fears that they might die before they can be brought to justice.

Sri Lankan Judge in Cambodia's War Crimes Tribunal

Marwaan Macan-Markar
Saturday, 20 May 2006

BANGKOK: Chandra Nihal Jayasinghe chooses his words carefully to match the difficult task before him. He has just been named as one of the international jurists to preside over the special tribunal in Cambodia to try the surviving members of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

"This is actually a new dimension in the judicial endeavours that I have been engaged in," Jayasinghe, 62, a Sri Lankan supreme court justice, said to IPS in a telephone interview from his home in a Colombo suburb.

The confirmation of his name by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, this week, along with the list of other international and Cambodian judges, marked another milestone in the long and tortuous journey to establish this war crimes tribunal.

Jayasinghe, in fact, is the only jurist from a developing country nominated by the United Nations in its list of 13 international judges and prosecutors to play a role in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as this special tribunal is officially called.

The others are from New Zealand, France, Austria, Japan, Poland, Australia, the Netherlands and the United States. But the announcement of the judge's names has only added to the many controversies that already dog the ECCC, starting with the generally hostile attitude displayed towards it by the Cambodian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Both local and international human rights groups have fired broadsides at Phnom Penh's choice of Cambodian judges, named this week, to participate in this unprecedented legal exercise. Particularly troubling to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York-based rights watchdog, is Ney Thol's name among the 17 Cambodian jurists.

Ney Thol, who is an army general and president of Cambodia's military court, "has a bad record on human rights," Sunai Phasuk, HRW's researcher in Thailand, told IPS. "In one recent case, he denied the right of the defence to call his own witnesses and to cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses."

Hun Sen's reaction to such criticism has been predictable. In a speech delivered recently to a gathering of law students, he attacked those who questioned Cambodia's choice of the local judges for the ECCC.

The Prime Minister "likened his critics to perverted sex-crazed animals, among other things", states the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, a regional rights lobby.

"This tribunal is very important for the Cambodian people who suffered so much during the Khmer Rouge period," Ny Chakrya, a ranking member of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, a Phnom Penh-based non-governmental group, told IPS. "They want to see a fair and transparent tribunal."

And Ny Chakrya is hoping that such will be the case when the next and the most important step of this tribunal, the work of the investigating judges begins.

The current developments come after a 10-year-long bitter debate between the UN and Hun Sen's regime about the setting up of this tribunal, which is a unique body unlike the special tribunals established to try the accused for the crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

The Cambodian tribunal will have a mix of international and local judges, with the latter in the majority, unlike the tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia, which had only international jurists to ensure high standards of justice.

This was crimes court, being set up in a complex that has over 100 offices on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, will have three chambers: the pre-trial chamber, the trial chamber and the supreme court chamber.

In addition, there will be a team of investigating judges and prosecutors.

"We are expecting the judges to come to Cambodia for a meeting in late June," Helen Jarvis, Chief of public affairs at the ECCC, said during a telephone interview from Phnom Penh. "Then the co-prosecutors will begin their preliminary examinations to issue preliminary indictments."

Thereafter, the investigating judges begin work to examine the evidence for the cases ahead, she added. "We are hoping that the trials will begin in early 2007."

And while the trial will help Cambodian victims of Khmer Rouge brutality to finally get justice, it is also expected to revive political history embarrassing to the UN, the US, China and the regional grouping Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines were leading members at that time.

Some of them helped the rise to power of Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, while others propped him up after his regime was driven out of power by the Vietnamese army.

During the reign of terror by the Maoist Khmer Rouge from 1975-79, close to 1.7 million people were executed or died of forced labour and famines in Cambodia. This South-East Asian country, one of the region's poorest, currently has a population of 11.5 million people.

Pol Pot died in 1998 but other leaders involved in acts of genocide have survived.

They include Ta Mok, the one-legged military chief who is known as 'The Butcher', and Kaing Khek Lev, or 'Duch', who headed the grisly Toul Sleng interrogation centre in Phnom Penh, where 14,000 people accused of being "enemies of the state" died and only 12 inmates survived. Both men are in jail after being accused by a military court, of war crimes and genocide.

Others like Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's deputy, known as "Brother Number Two", Khieu Samphan, former head of state during the Khmer Rouge years, and Leng Sary, the former Foreign Minister, are enjoying a free life following an amnesty from Hun Sen.

The Prime Minister, himself, carries the taint of that brutal regime. He was a member of the Khmer Rouge till he defected to join forces with Vietnamese troops that drove Pol Pot out of power in 1979. (IPS)

Attempting To Heal From the Khmer Rouge, One Person at a Time

By Youk Chhang
Opinion
The Cambodia Daily
Monday, May 22, 2006

In 2004, a team from the Documentation Center of Cambodia visited the family of Srun Try (an alias) in a village two hours south of Phnom Penh. Srun Try joined the Khmer Rogue in 1974 as a child combatant.

For reasons he still doesn’t understand, he was imprisoned a year later: “They shackled me, accusing me of running away from the battle field, of being a Lon Nol soldier... They kept me handcuffed and shackled my legs at night. They also hit my head with an ax handle and tied electrodes to me and gave me shocks. A man named Chhuon tied my feet and hung me upside down.”

When the Vietnamese entered Cambodia in 1979, Srun Try ran to the forest. “After a long time without any food to eat and being so thirsty that I had to drink my own urine, I decide to come back home. A man who lived in the village hit my head with an ax and accused me to being Khmer Rouge.”

Srun Try told our researchers that every night since 1979, he would wake up in a sweat, screaming from his nightmares. Srun Try is among the 81 percent of Cambodians who experienced violence during Democratic Kampuchea when an estimated 1.7 million people, or about a quarter of Cambodia’s population, died.

Today, in a country of about 12 million people, an estimated 3.3 million still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Their symptoms include trouble sleeping or concentrating, depression, blackouts, headaches, vertigo, intestinal problems, nightmares and episodes of violent behavior.

Many psychologists believe that the high rate of violence in Cambodia today, as well as its inability to recover economically, can be attributed to the effects of this trauma, which has left many people unable to cope with stress in their daily lives.

Most Cambodians lack access to professional mental health care; the country has only 26 trained psychiatrists and perhaps a hundred general practitioners who have received about 12 weeks of mental health training. PTSD victims have had little choice but to seek help from traditional healers, herbalists and fortunetellers. Few understand the causes of their problems Many people in this predominantly Buddhist country have attributed their sufferings to karma.

The UN and the Cambodian government will hold trials of surviving senior Khmer Rouge leaders in 2007. No one, including Dr Sotheara Chhim of the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization, is certain about the effect this will have on Cambodian victims of PTSD. If the trials are successful, people could gain new insight into their suffering and begin to heal. If not, the trials could open old wounds and re-traumatize people who have suppressed their memories of torture, fear, starvation and death for over 25 years.

In 2000, Cees Kieft of the Netherlands Embassy visited DC-Cam. He suggested that we work with TPO Cambodia to create a program for PTSD victims. At the time, I had my doubts. After all, most Cambodians have been affected by the Khmer Rouge – everyone suffered. So who was going to help them? Mr. Kieft replied that people who were less traumatized would help those who had more severe PTSD.

With that simple solution in mind, we began the pilot Victims of Torture project in January 2003 with $7,000 from the Dutch Embassy. After a year of identifying potential project sites, conducting interviews and counseling sessions, the Victims of Torture project began in earnests in January 2004 with funding from USAid. TPO Cambodia trained DC-Cam staff on how to identify people suffering from psychological disorders.

Our teams traveled to three provinces (two where the majority of inhabitants are victims of the regime and one that held many former perpetrators) and interviewed villagers about their lives under the Khmer Rouge. In the process, they identified potential clients for psychological care. In all, DC-Cam interviewed 302 people: 214 were victims who had suffered either directly or indirectly (for example, through the loss of loved ones) and 88 were former Khmer Rouge cadres. We identified 95 people as suffering from PTSD and referred them to TPO Cambodia. TPO Cambodia visited the pilot areas twice a month to provide counseling and treatment.

Because of staffing constraints and the time required to travel to the more remote pilot areas, they were able to assist 60 people. Those who had the most severe symptoms were treated individually, and a few received antidepressant medication and vitamins. The rest were treated in group therapy.

Many of the therapy sessions also focused on behavioral problems, such as alcoholism and domestic violence, which have broader consequences for the community. The project in corporate a number of new and culturally appropriate techniques to help people address their trauma. For example, because all of the participants in the pilot project were Buddhists, we added a session to discuss Buddhist ways of dealing with stress. For example, participants were taught muscle relaxation and breathing techniques to help alleviate their anxiety and anger. Counselors also drew on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness: focusing one’s consciousness and senses on the present moment to prevent dissociation.

Another important aspect of this project was helping communities address their problems and challenges, particularly because victims and perpetrators form Democratic Kampuchea live in the same villages. Thus, the project sought to create a climate in which victims and perpetrators could communicate with each other and begin to understand how the others felt. In late 2005, we brought 25 victims and 25 perpetrators together on a three-day trip to visit genocide sites and talk about what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Although forgiveness did not come easily to everyone, most of the victims said that they understood the circumstances that made the perpetrators act as they did. Many challenges lie ahead for Cambodia in helping those who suffered as a result of Democratic Kampuchea. One of the greatest is the demand for counseling that has emerged from the Victims of Torture project. Before he received counseling, Srun Try was given medication that allowed him to sleep through the night fro the first time in 25 years. As a result, villagers who live near his house were also able to sleep.

Seeing the benefits of treatment, they too, came forward to request assistance from the project. With so few counselors in Cambodia, DC-Cam is now looking to new ways to help PTSD victims over the longer term. In the coming years, we plan to train local people to help identify and refer those suffering from PTSD to the project for assistance. And we want to involve government clinics in providing services.

Last, because Cambodia’s economy was destroyed by the genocide, it is one of the world’s poorest countries today. Poverty is a rood cause of the frustration and domestic violence many Cambodia experience and we will work to help communities generate income and gain a sense of the dignity they had before the Khmer Rouge robbed them of stability.

<>We plan to help them recover, one soul at a time.

(Youk Chhang is the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.)

‘Day of Hate’ Ceremony Held at Choeung Ek

But Yun Samean
The Cambodia Daily
Monday, May 22, 2006

Around 1,000 people gathered at the Choeung Ek “killing fields” on Saturday to take part in a government-organized ceremony to commemorate the day formerly known as the “Day of Heat” against the Khmer Rouge regime.

First celebrated in 1984 as a national day for people to vent their anger against Pol Pot, “American imperialists” and “Chinese expansionists, the May 20 ceremony was toned down during the 1990s as holdout Khmer Rogue forces began their defections to the government.

On Saturday, actors dressed in the all-black uniform of Pol Pot’s revolutionary army, armed with weighty wooden poles, re-enacted scenes of torture and execution against prisoners whose arms were bound behind their backs.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said that he organized the brutal performance to remind people of Pol Pot’s regime.

“We wanted to remember out suffering. We cannot forget Pol Pot’s regime,” he said on Sunday. “We have waited 27 years. We want to see the Khmer Rouge tribunal process soon,” he added.

CPP government officials staged similar ceremonies across the country, said ruling party lawmaker Cheam Yeap, who organized a commemoration in Prey Veng province.

“The Day of Hate celebration is a party instruction. We celebrated it in every province,” said Cheam Yeap, adding that the re-enactments were staged to provent history ever repeating itself in Cambodia.

“The country has not developed and continues to be poor because of the [Pol Pot] regime,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party Senator Kong Korm questioned the significance of the May 20 date for the commemoration, saying that April 17, the day Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, would be a more fitting day for the popular expression of anger toward the communist regime.

Kong Korm, who was previously a member of the CPP, said that favoring May 20 over April 17 was a factional issue between former Khmer Rouge members, which included Prime Minister Hun Sen and national Assembly President and CPP Honorary President Heng Samrin.

“The Hate Day celebration is just to make clear that they were not responsible for the regime. The celebration is to make sure that only Pol Pot’s side was responsible for the genocide.” Kong Korm said.

Hun Sen was a Khmer Rouge deputy regimental commander until he defected to Vietnam in June 1977. Heng Samrin defected to Vietnam in May 1978. Both of them later returned with Vietnamese support to topple Pol Pot on Jan 7, 1979.

Cheam Yeap said that Hun Sen and Heng Samrin were led in the wrong direction by Pol Pot and later fought back against the Khmer Rouge.

“Samdech Hun Sen and Heng Samrin are heroes,” he said.

Some Say Statue is Wrong Symbol for KR Trial

By Yun Samean
The Cambodia Daily
Friday, May 19, 2005

At an hour-long ceremony on May 12, spiritual medium Prum Phally summoned the spirit of Lokta Dambang Daek into the statue outside the Khmer Rouge tribunal premises in Kandal province.

As the ceremony drew to an end, Prum Phally was sure that the spirit, known in English as Grandfather of the Iron Rod, had agreed to remain inside that 2-meter-tall concrete statue, with its pointed finger and club brandished behind his head, ready to strike.

“I invited him through my magic, and he said he would come if his spirit house is clean,” Prum Phally, a Takeo province resident, recalled in a recent interview.

At the end of the ceremony, the medium said he witnessed the spirit writing a motif on the statue’s back, reading: “People who do good deeds will receive good things. People who do bad deeds will receive bad things.”

Khmer Rouge tribunal officials hope that the statue – in front of which witnesses are expected to swear to tell the truth – will help ensure the integrity of the proceedings.

But Lokta Dambang Daek has already attracted criticism, whit some observers saying the rod-wielding statue is not an appropriated symbol of justice for an international-standard, UN-backed genocide trial.

Chuch Phoeung, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said he believed the Hindu deity Yama, commonly known as the god of death, would have been a more appropriate choice. Yama is supposed to conduct a final tribunal where the good are rewarded and evildoers punished.

“Yama is the god of death. He should be placed at the court,” Chuch Phoeung said, though he added that it is ultimately the court’s decision.

With Lokta Dambang Daek’s imposing size, arched eyebrows, angry eyes and raised club, the statue looks little different from a Khmer Rouge cadre, legal analyst Lao Mong Hay wrote in an e-mail.

“He reflects on the one [hand] the practices of torture, of course very much on the other hand the reliance on confessions, in the Cambodian criminal process,” Lao Mong Hay wrote.

Lao Mong Hay said a blindforded statue of the Greek goddess of justice Themis, carrying scales in one hand and a sword in the other, should be used instead, calling the installation of Lakta Dambang Daek and its symbolic connotations a shame for both Cambodia and the UN.

Srieng Y, the Royal University of Fine Arts professor who built the statue, said he had been told that the legend of Lokta Dambang Daek dated to pre-Angkorian times, and that he was originally a secular figure.

Lokta Dambang Daek was a kickboxing coach and military commander in Battambang province who ousted Thai occupiers from Cambodia, Srieng Y said.

“He tried his best to protect the country, so we respect him in order to pay our gratitude,” said Srieng Y, who built the statue over a 45-day period and was paid $300 for his services.

Srieng Y said he did not want the statue to be seated, as traditionally depicted, as he wanted the spirit to look more assertive.

“A standing Lokta Dambang Daek statue means the wants to advise people to do good things,” he said, adding that although the rod the statue is brandishing might alarm people, it is intended to represent justice.

Witnesses may still lie in court event if they swear in front of the statue, he said, but warned that their lives could be cut unexpectedly short if the do so.

“Those who lie will live a shorter life,” he said.

Miech Ponn, an assistant at the Buddhist Institute’s customs commission, agreed that swearing in front of the statue would have the desired effect on witnesses.

“No one knows whether people who swear speak the truth, but those who swear think there are spirits who watch them,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmarker Eng Chhay Eang questioned whether witnesses alone would be required to swear before the statue, or whether judges and prosecutors would have to do so as well. “If the judges and prosecutors don’t swear, people will be suspicious that they are biased, he said.

Reach Sambath, tribunal spokesman, said that Lokta Dambang Daek is not intending to hit anyone. Rather, he is warning witnesses to be honest, and is sincere rather than cruel.

Lao Mong Hay’s reservations about the spirit would evaporate if he visited the tribunal premises rather than just looking at photographs of the statue on the Internet, Reach Sambath said.

“If he sees it directly, he will love the statue,” he said.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cambodia judges' credibility questioned

By KER MUNTHIT
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- As preparations to try former Khmer Rouge leaders move forward, legal experts are concerned the dubious records of some Cambodian judges will cast doubt on the credibility of the country's war crimes tribunal.

Cambodia and the United Nations agreed in 2003, after years of negotiations, to establish the U.N.-backed tribunal to seek justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died during the murderous 1975-79 rule of the communist Khmer Rouge.

This past week, King Norodom Sihamoni approved the appointment of 30 Cambodian and U.N.-chosen foreign judicial officials, and there are now hopes that trials can begin early next year for surviving Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.

But some critics are worried because Cambodia's judiciary has had a reputation for incompetence, corruption and serving the government's political agenda.

The foreign jurists come from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Poland, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and the United States. Many have multiple law degrees and years of experience in international criminal justice, with two having served with the U.N. tribunal on war crimes and genocide in Kosovo.

The resumes of the Cambodian judges are threadbare by comparison, and their reputations shaky.

Their appointment "tarnishes right from the start the image of that tribunal, and because of that, it would lack public confidence and trust," said Lao Monghay, a Cambodian legal analyst working with the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

Little information is available about the Cambodian judges other than the fact that most received law degrees in the former Soviet communist bloc - places such as East Germany, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam - where carrying out the state's wishes counted more than impartiality.

One tribunal judge, army general Ney Thol, is president of the military court and member of the central committee of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party. He is best known for presiding at two major trials where Hun Sen's political opponents were convicted of national security-related crimes.

In 1998, Ney Thol sentenced Prince Norodom Ranariddh, leader of the royalist Funcinpec party, to 30 years in prison for weapons smuggling and conspiring with outlawed Khmer Rouge guerrillas. The trial was prompted mainly by Hun Sen's desire to neuter his main political rival, whom he had already ousted from his position as co-prime minister in a 1997 coup.

Last August, Ney Thol sentenced opposition lawmaker Cheam Channy to seven years in prison for trying to form an armed group to topple the government in another trial widely regarded as politically motivated. He was criticized for his conduct in the trial, during which he barred the defense from calling witnesses and from fully cross-examining prosecution witnesses.

Both opposition leaders were later freed by royal pardons.

Ney Thol said having been a judge since 1987 qualifies him for the Khmer Rouge tribunal. "I have gone through many short courses (of legal training) inside and outside the country," he said. "I am honored to be one of the appointees."

Another tribunal judge, Thou Mony, once overturned a lower court's guilty ruling against Hun Sen's nephew, who had been involved in a shooting spree in 2003 in which two people were killed and two others wounded.

"I am very proud to have been appointed," said the Cambodian appeals court judge, who was educated at the University of Leipzig in the former East Germany. "I had never dreamed of that."

David Scheffer, a former U.S. ambassador at large on war crimes issues, said the Cambodian judges will be watched carefully by the international community.

"If the performance of the judges begins to be called into question in a way that goes to the issue of their integrity, their independence ... then you can imagine at some point the United Nations would take a serious look at that in terms of their continued participation in the process," said Scheffer, now a visiting law professor at Northwestern University.

The government projects a shaky confidence in its judges.

Cambodia Cn jurists "will try their best to meet international standards" in working with "their international counterparts of high caliber," Sean Visoth, the government-appointed tribunal's chief administrator, said recently.

UN urges Cambodia judicial reform

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, said the justice system needed to address its lack of training, independence and integrity.

Her comments came at the end of a five-day visit to Cambodia.

Relations between the UN and Cambodia have been tense following earlier reports criticising the country's human rights record.

The timing of Ms Arbour's comments could not have been more pertinent, says the BBC's Guy Delauney in Phnom Penh.

The past two weeks have seen lively debate about the qualifications of Cambodia's legal officials, especially those set to preside over the trial of officials linked to the former Khmer Rouge regime.

Some of the judges only hold the equivalent of high school certificates.

Others completed their legal training in Soviet-bloc countries in the 1980s when Cambodia had a communist government, backed by Vietnam.

"The problems with the judicial branch of governance are profound," Ms Arbour said.

"Lack of professional training, insufficient guarantees of independence and lack or perception of lack of integrity are at the heart of what needs to be addressed, both by legislation and by a change of the culture."

Criticism 'unacceptable'

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier described UN officials in his country as long-term tourists and had accused a special envoy of being deranged.

On Thursday however, his spokesman denied reports that the government was planning to close the UN's human rights office in Cambodia.

"What the government wants is for the human rights groups to tell the truth about the work the government is doing, to show the facts and avoid just viewing Cambodia as hell," Eang Sophalleth quoted Hun Sen as saying.

In March, Hun Sen called UN envoy Yash Ghai "deranged" after he suggested too much power lay in the hands of the prime minister.

The row erupted in March when Mr Ghai said Cambodia's government was not committed to human rights, and power had been too centralised around "one individual".

Hun Sen said Mr Ghai should be sacked by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and dismissed UN rights staff in Cambodia as "long-term tourists".

Mr Sophalleth said Hun Sen had told Ms Arbour Mr Ghai's comments were out of order.

"The prime minister said it was not acceptable. If the prime minister does not have power, how can he lead the country?" he said.