UN staff assist Khmer Rouge tribunal reach historic verdict

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Phnom Penh | UNAKRT

One hundred and thirty United Nations staff and officials played a key role in a process that culminated on 7 August 2014 when the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) found former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan guilty of crimes against humanity. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment.

The ECCC, more commonly referred to as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, is a special Cambodian court set up to provide legal accountability for the atrocities committed in Cambodia between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979, when the Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of Pol Pot, ruled the country. The United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT) provides assistance to the ECCC. Approximately 130 United Nations staff and officials work with UNAKRT, and this amounts to 43 per cent of the total staff working for the ECCC.

The 7 August 2014 judgement was the result of the hard and dedicated work of United Nations staff working side by side with Cambodian colleagues. Kenneth Roberts, Senior Legal Officer of the Trial Chamber, explains: “The staff of the Trial Chamber demonstrated great commitment in providing support to the judges in the preparation of this judgement, working long hours throughout the preceding year and dealing with legal and factual issues of extreme complexity. They were highly motivated by the importance of this judgement to both the people of Cambodia as well as to international criminal justice generally.”

Charles Zama, Coordinator of the Interpretation and Translation Unit, added that “[the issuance of] the judgement in the three official working languages of the ECCC at the same time stands as another unique achievement of the ECCC in the annals of international criminal justice.” In complex cases such as Case 002, in addition to a team of highly competent legal translators and revisers, this process requires a lot of cooperation between the translation team, the legal officers and the judges.

Mr. Stephen Mathias, Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, attended the historic pronouncement of the verdict in Phnom Penh. “The delivery of today's verdict is a milestone in the work of the ECCC, and a historic moment in international criminal justice. It is also a momentous day for the people of Cambodia,” Mr. Mathias said in a joint statement together with the Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, Mr. Sok An.