In keeping with its desire to maximize the legacy of hybrid courts, the OHCHR in Cambodia is committed to assisting the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in its efforts to promote the rule of law. What is the ECCC? The United Nations and the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia have together established a tribunal to try senior leaders and those most responsible for atrocities committed in Cambodia during the period of Democratic Kampuchea (17 April 1975 – 6 January 1979).
This court, known as the ECCC, has a mixed composition of judges and lawyers (both national and international) and has been fully operational in Cambodia since June 2007. The ECCC is one of six hybrid tribunals created jointly by governments and the United Nations to try alleged perpetrators of mass atrocities. These other tribunals have been established in East Timor, Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and in The Hague for Lebanon, in addition to the two fully international ad hoc tribunals established for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. It is also the first court established within ASEAN for this purpose, and evinces the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia's broader commitment to international justice, with Cambodia being the only country within ASEAN to have ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court How can the ECCC promote the rule of law in Cambodia? Although the primary aim of the ECCC is to provide Cambodians with a measure of justice for the suffering experienced during the Khmer Rouge era, a secondary and equally significant aim is for the court to act as a role model for Cambodia’s domestic courts. The ECCC can do so both through creating a ‘demonstration effect’ – by evincing the independence and impartiality of proceedings and the credibility of its process – as well as by actively engaging in programs that ensure the effective transfer of knowledge, skills and practices from the ECCC to the national legal sector. Broadly speaking, this is known as a hybrid tribunal’s legal and judicial ‘legacy’.
What is ‘legacy’?
‘Legacy’ is not always an easy concept to understand. For many people, the idea of ‘legacy’ takes on a meaning that is equated with the broader sociological or philosophical aims of justice for mass atrocities, rather than pointing to concrete measures that positively impact on justice sector reform. The OHCHR has endeavored to demystify the concept by adopting a very practical definition. Broadly speaking, 'legacy' refers to 'a hybrid tribunal's lasting impact on bolstering the rule of law in a particular society....The aim is for this to continue even after the work of the court is complete'. Legacy programs can encompass both educational aspects (e.g. conducting trainings and creating guidance notes) as well as aspects that directly impact on the law in action (e.g. 'test'' cases in the national system that use ECCC jurisprudence or practice).
For a Khmer summary of the OHCHR policy tool on the legacy of hybrid courts, click here
What is OHCHR doing to help ensure the ECCC leaves a positive legacy in Cambodia?
OHCHR Cambodia is working with lawyers, prosecutors and judges at the ECCC, as well as key domestic actors, to implement legacy programs that focus on the following three objectives:
1.) Increase public information about, and awareness of, legacy activities at the ECCC and other hybrid tribunals
2.) Facilitate ongoing dialogue, discussion and debate about the ECCC in the Cambodian legal and judicial sector
3.) Facilitate the introduction of tools and curricula that ensure greater dissemination of the ECCC’s jurisprudence and practice to legal professionals and academics, to ensure the Court has a lasting impact on the national sector.
OHCHR Cambodia has produced a concept note on legacy which outlines its approach in greater detail.
See concept Note English - Khmer
In addition, the OHCHR has produced a legacy matrix, listing many activities undertaken to enhance the ECCC's legacy.
See Legacy Matrix English - Khmer.
What are the challenges faced in ensuring a positive legacy?
The ECCC continues to face challenges in ensuring a positive legacy. The Court is under pressure to administer justice quickly and faces ongoing challenges to both its funding and its credibility. Yet it has made significant progress. By continuing to provide Cambodia with a court that is open to scrutiny from journalists and civil society, conducting a trial that has complied with international fair trial standards, increasing the profile of a strong and credible defense for all accused persons, and instituting a measure of victim’s participation in its proceedings, the Court has made significant strides in raising expectations of the administration of justice in Cambodia, and promoting greater transparency and accountability in justice processes. Additionally, court staff are committed to both delivering justice to the Cambodian people and ensuring that positive skills, practices, and knowledge from the ECCC is transferred to the domestic sector, through training, workshops and roundtable discussions established for this purpose. Ultiately, it is they who will be the most important legacy for Cambodia -- through the skills and practices they take back to the national justice sector.