The ECCC presents an excellent opportunity to bolster the understanding of the criminal trial process within Cambodia and, in particular, the right to a fair trial and an effective defence. The DSS takes this responsibility seriously and has established a vigorous outreach and capacity-building programme. The main components of this programme are described below:

Training: Building capacity

The ECCC is the first opportunity for many Cambodian lawyers to practise in international criminal law. The cases before the ECCC are highly complex, requiring modern methods of case management and preparation. In consultation and cooperation with the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia the DSS has provided several one-week training courses to better equip Cambodian lawyers to defend cases at the ECCC. These courses utilised the International Criminal Law Training Materials for the ECCC, produced in English and Khmer by International Criminal Law Services and Open Society Justice Initiative.

Training has been provided in conjunction with the International Bar Association as well as the East-West Center, Hawaii / War Crimes Studies Centre, University of California, Berkeley. The skills and knowledge gained by lawyers may be also used in the regular Cambodian courts. 

The following courses have been provided:

International Criminal Law

Two courses on international criminal law dealt with the specialised criminal offences and forms of responsibility that are within the jurisdiction of the ECCC. The courses covered the following topics:

  • Genocide
  • Crimes against humanity
  • Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions
  • Forms of responsibility
  • Command Responsibility
  • Defences

Defending Complex Crime

Cases before the ECCC involve highly complex legal and factual issues quite unlike normal criminal cases. This course is designed to equip Cambodian lawyers with the new skills that are necessary in order to prepare and defend cases at the ECCC. 

The course contains the following modules, which are also taught as free-standing seminars:

  • Making a legal argument using international law
  • Using Human Rights Law
  • Case Theory development
  • How to use a defence team effectively
  • Procedure at the ECCC
  • Electronic evidence management
  • International criminal procedure 

Case Managers Course

Co-Lawyers are supported by defence teams including Case Managers who are  responsible for managing the evidence and ensuring the case is organised properly. This responsibility requires additional skills to those acquired during a standard legal education. 

The Case Managers Course contains the following modules:

  • Module 1: Introduction to ECCC
  • Module 2: Legal Research
  • Module 3: Active Defending
  • Module 4: Case Management and Fees
  • Module 5: Software
  • Module 6: Persuasive Argument
  • Module 7: Defending International Crimes
  • Module 8: Using Documentary Evidence

Ongoing Internal Training: Experts Seminars

The DSS organises internal seminars for Co-Lawyers and staff within the DSS. These seminars involve presentations and round-table discussions between visiting legal experts and ECCC Defence Teams.

Previous Speakers

A number of distinguished lawyers have been involved in the DSS training programme.

  • Stuart Alford. Barrister. UN Prosecutor before the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in East Timor, 2001-2003.
  • Pauline Baranes. Paris Bar. Associate Legal Officer, DSS, ECCC. Previously Legal Assistant of a Defence Counsel on the Media Trial (ICTR).
  • Gilbert Bitti. Senior Legal Advisor to the Pre-Trial Division of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
  • Professor David Cohen. Director, Berkeley War Crimes Studies Centre and Ancker Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Rodney Dixon. Defence Counsel, Ramush Haradinaj (ICTY). Author, ‘Archbold International’.
  • Alan Gutman. Defence Counsel, Special Panel for Serious Crimes, East Timor, 2002-2005.
  • Gillian Higgins. Barrister. Defence Counsel, Slobodan Milosevic (ICTY), Ferdinand Nahimana (ICTR), Alfred Musema (ICTR).
  • Guénaël Mettraux. Defence Counsel, Sefer Halilovic (ICTY), Lubje Boskoski (ICTY). Author, ‘International Crimes and the Ad Hoc Tribunals’.
  • Professor Andreas O’shea. Associate Professor of International Law, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Defence counsel for Karamera and Rwanmakuba (ICTR), Seselj (ICTY) and Augustine Gbao (SCSL).
  • Eugene O’sullivan. Defence Counsel, Zejnil Delalic (ICTY), Biljana Plavsic (ICTY), Milan Milutinovic (ICTY)
  • Judge Philip Rapoza. Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Judge, Special Panels for Serious Crimes, East Timor, 2003-2005.
  • Richard Rogers. California Bar. Head, DSS, ECCC. Previously Legal Officer at the ICTR and the ICTY.
  • Rupert Skikbeck. Barrister. Former Head, DSS, ECCC. Previously Director of OKO, Court of BiH, Sarajevo, and Defence Advisor, SCSL.
  • Michelle Staggs. Asian International Justice Initiative. Previously Trial Monitor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
  • Michail Wladimiroff. Defence Counsel, Dusko Tadic(ICTY) and before the ICTR. Amicus Curiae for Slobodan Milosevic (ICTY).
  • Chris Engels. Mississippi Bar. Former Director, Criminal Defence Section, Court of BiH, Sarajevo. Consultant to Afghan government on War Crimes Issues. Consultant to DSS, ECCC.
  • Author Verken. Defnece Counsel, Jean Mpambara (ICTR), Callixte Kalimanzira (ICTR).

Mentoring Within the Office

Mixed Office and Open Door Policies. DSS has always maintained a mixed office policy, so that the Cambodian and International staff are fully integrated into one unit. DSS also maintains an open door policy, which helps to create a collegiate atmosphere. DSS staff and lawyers are encouraged to approach one another and draw upon each other’s expertise.

Legal Updates. Each Wednesday, the Section gathers for presentations given by interns or junior staff (both Cambodian and International) on major legal developments. These include case updates from international tribunals and national courts, conflict situation updates, etc. This helps to keep the DSS abreast of key developments, and facilitates the research and presentation skills of junior members.

Book & Film Discussions. Each week members of the Section meet to discuss a selected excerpt from an academic book or documentary film on Democratic Kampuchea.

Case Managers Mentoring. DSS staff meet Case Managers to discuss legal and practical issues they face in their daily work. When the need arises, focused training sessions are organised. 

Ad Hoc Talks. DSS staff give presentations relating to the common features of the case at the ECCC on an ad hoc basis.

Outreach: A Voice for the Defence

The interests of the defence need to be represented from an early stage in the legal process. Whilst at other courts this has often been left until too late, the DSS commenced operations at the ECCC at the same time as the prosecution. In this way the DSS has been able to be a voice for the defence right from the very first day.

DSS staff have been involved in the outreach efforts organised by local NGOs and has given presentations on defence rights to Cambodians and foreigners at the ECCC, in Phnom Penh, and in the provinces. 


The DSS is also a voice for the defence in the media. The Head of the DSS is able to deal with enquiries from journalists and to give interviews on defence rights, allowing for a wider understanding of the issues that arise at the Court.

At the request of international and local NGOs, the DSS has provided 6 days of training to Cambodian journalists. This has allowed the journalists to understand better the work of the ECCC, as well as the elements of the crimes.


There are a large number of non-governmental organisations in Cambodia, many of whom work on issues surrounding the ECCC. The DSS maintains close contacts with these NGOs and has given a series of presentations to a dozen NGOs based in Phnom Penh. These included:

  • International Tribunals. A presentation of the international and mixed criminal tribunals.
  • International Crimes. Defining crimes against humanity, genocide and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention.
  • For the Defence. The role of the DSS and defence lawyers during the proceedings.
  • The Trial Process. Describing the different stages of the investigation, Trial Chamber and Supreme Court Chamber.

The Legal Community

The DSS is also proactive in maintaining contacts with the legal community in the region and around the world. The DSS has close contacts with international legal organisations representing criminal lawyers and also attends events in order to support the need for more lawyers to be recruited into the process.

Senior DSS members regularly address regional Bar Associations and other bodies on the role of the DSS. Recent presentations were delivered to:

  • The Hong Kong Bar Association
  • The Singapore Bar Association
  • A conference for legal professionals in Thailand

The Academic Community

The DSS has connections with many academic bodies and individuals in Asia and around the world. 

The DSS has given presentations to schools and universities in the Phnom Penh area to explain the importance of fair trial and the role of the defence. Presentations were given to:

  • Cambodian University for Specialties
  • Royal University of Law and Economics
  • Paññâsâstra University of Cambodia
  • Build Bright University
  • Norton University

The DSS, in conjunction with the Institute of Human Rights of the Montpellier Bar, organised a mock trial in the ECCC courtroom, and invited Cambodian law students to attend. This provided an opportunity to observe a typical French criminal trial and to gain a better understanding of the role of each party in the proceedings