Civil Party Forum in Kampot

As Case 001 draws to a close, and the ECCC Co-investigating judges have started to recognize more Civil Parties for case 002, the Victims Unit has launched a program of regional Civil Party forums, the first of which took place on Saturday and Sunday 26-27 September in Kampot. 195 Civil Party applicants from Kampot, Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong, Kep and Takeo provinces joined together to receive an update on the processes of the court and the application process. Of these, 87 were men and 108 were women.

Special guests at the first day of the seminar included the ECCC National Co-prosecutor and Prosecutor General of the Supreme Court of Cambodia, Her Excellency Chea Leang, as well as the Deputy Governor of Kampot Province Her Excellency  Mrs. Kang Sav Thorn and Her Excellency Dr Helen Jarvis, the head of the Victims Unit. HE Chea Leang told participants about the work of the ECCC so far and the processing of complaints and applications. She also reminded the participants that the deadline for Civil Party applications for Case 002 will be 15 days after the closure of the judicial investigation which is expected near the end of 2009.

The purposes of the forum were to inform civil parties about the court and its processes and for VU and other court officials to listen to the views and expectations of victims.

People spoke from the floor about their imprisonment and the loss of family members.

Asked about their expectations of the ECCC, most said they wanted to see justice done. Others want the opportunity to observe the trials and to give their testimony.  Many also suggested various forms of reparations including the building of stupas, documentation of the crimes and improvements in local services.

Reasons for applying to become involved in the trials included the desire to see justice done and to ensure the trials were fair. Most participants also said they would like court officials and lawyers to visit them in their communities so that they can stay informed of the trial. They also asked for opportunities to visit the court.

Representatives of the Victims Unit, the Office of the Co-investigating Judges, the Co-prosecutors and the Witness and Expert Support Unit each gave short presentations about the work of their offices, especially as it affects Civil Parties and complainants. Questions from the floor included: When will applications be processed? Is it possible for each member of the family file a complaint. Why do the trials take a long time? Who will be tried? Why aren't former Khmer Rouge cadres who live in the community being tried?

Individuals who have recently been accepted as Civil Parties were informed and all participants had the opportunity to meet with lawyers. Those who are still unrepresented were introduced to a member of the legal team employed by the VU who will represent their interests unless and until they choose another lawyer.

Mrs Chum Neou, a Civil party for case 001 told participants how she used to cry every time she talked about her experiences during the Khmer Rouge period. However, after participating in the trial and with help from the psychological support organization, TPO, she is now able to speak in public without crying. Mrs Chum Neou told participants it had been very important for her to sit in one of the 10 seats reserved for Civil Parties in the courtroom. She described how difficult it had been to give testimony in the court and said she cried a lot at that time.  

Staff of Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) explained the symptoms of trauma that people may suffer from as a result of their experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime. They provided counseling to some participants and made contact with others who would like to discuss their symptoms. NGOs that provide support and information to Civil Parties cooperated in the organization of the forum, including ADHOC, DC-Cam, KID, CDP, Center for Justice and Peace (CJP), and KKHRA.

The next regional forum is planned for Battambang in late October.

For more information contact Mr Neou Kassie, Victims Unit Outreach Coordinator on 012 818035

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