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Transitional Justice in Focus: Excursion to Cambodia from 29 July to 10 August 2017

Teilnehmer/innen der Kambodscha-Exkursion 2017 bei den ECCC
Foto: Wolfgang Form

From 29 July to 10 August 2017, 13 students of law as well as peace and conflict studies went on a study trip to Cambodia under the direction of ICWC Managing Director Dr. Wolfgang Form. The 12-day stay focused on the visit of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Penh. It was the second excursion to the Cambodian capital under the direction of Dr. Forms after 2008.

The leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, under which an estimated 1.8 to 2 million people lost their lives between April 1975 and January 1978, are on trial before the ECCC. Many died of starvation, could not withstand the unbearable working and living conditions, suffered inadequate medical care or became victims of torture, murder and political persecution.

Accordingly, the excursion focused on the ECCC proceedings against the former head of the torture prison Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, KAING Guek Eav (alias Duch) and the two former leaders of the Pol Pot regime, KHIEU Samphan and NUON Chea. The former has already been sentenced to life imprisonment and the other two are still waiting for their appeal decisions. Further trials are currently being planned, but it is still unclear whether there will actually be any charges. The participants of the field trip thus experienced the ECCC in an exciting phase of transition.

Treffen mit Mitarbeiter/innen der GIZ/des ZFD
Foto: Wolfgang Form

The focus was not least on the question of what significance various social actors ascribed to the ECCC after almost 10 years of court practice. To investigate this question, in addition to the ECCC meetings, there were also meetings with employees of the GIZ or the Civil Peace Service, the Cambodian Civil Party Lead Co-Lawyer PICH Ang and trauma experts from the NGO Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO). The participants also visited the Paññāsāstra University in Phnom Penh, where a lively exchange on the effects of legal reconciliation mechanisms in general and the ECCC in particular took place with Cambodian students.

The field trip was a complete success, as the participants experienced the social effects and functioning of a hybrid court, entered into dialogue with national and international actors and learnt about their assessment of legal processes and the social legitimacy of the tribunal as well as its contribution to coming to terms with the past.