Experiments in International Criminal Justice: Lessons from the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
76 Pages Posted: 26 May 2013 Last revised: 21 Aug 2015
Date Written: March 19, 2014
A number of important legal and institutional experiments have been undertaken at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a UN-backed tribunal established to try some of the most egregious crimes of the Pol Pot era. The ECCC is the first UN-supported hybrid criminal tribunal to mandate a majority of national judges and to divide key legal and administrative offices and funding mechanisms into distinct national and international sides. It also draws more heavily than any prior internationalized mass crimes process from the civil law tradition, including expansive roles for investigating judges and an ambitious mechanism permitting certain survivors to join the proceedings as civil parties. These experimental features — most of which were accepted reluctantly by the United Nations during difficult negotiations with the Cambodian government — have sometimes compromised the ECCC’s capacity to conduct fair, expeditious proceedings and carry out its administrative functions efficiently and transparently. This article traces some of the effects of the ECCC’s unique institutional features on various aspects of its performance and draws lessons that can help inform the design and management of mass crimes proceedings going forward.
Keywords: International criminal law, transitional justice, human rights, Cambodia, United Nations
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