[Dateline: Phnom Penh | Author: UNAKRT]
Efforts at bringing justice and accountability for crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-1979 have taken a major step forward with the start of the initial hearing in the first case of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
The ECCC – a United Nations-backed, independent hybrid tribunal – began proceedings this week in the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, also known by the alias “Duch.”
About the Court
Under a 2003 agreement between the United Nations and Cambodia, the ECCC was set up as an independent court to assist in establishing a trial to prosecute the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge.
It is staffed by a mixture of Cambodian and international staff and judges and is mandated to try senior leaders and those deemed most responsible for serious violations of Cambodian and international law committed during the Khmer Rouge rule from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.
According to the January 2009 issue of Court Report, there are over 30 different nationalities represented among the staff of ECCC. In total, there are around 350 staff members and 40 interns, both national and international, working at the ECCC including translators and interpreters, public information officers, administrative and support staff, and, of course, staff with legal backgrounds. The Office of Administration takes care of budget, human resources, security and information technology issues.
About the trial
Kaing Guek Eav faces charges of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, in addition to the offences of homicide and torture under Cambodian criminal law.
“The Cambodian people have waited 30 years for this day, to find justice for the suffering in which over a third of the population perished,” said Mr. Tony Kranh, the ECCC’s acting Director of Administration.
“This is an historic moment and an important step towards bringing about accountability for crimes and providing justice for the accused and victims of atrocities committed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime in the late 70s,” said Mr. Knut Rosandhaug, the Deputy Director of the ECCC, and Coordinator of the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT), the UN body with the mandate of supporting the ECCC.