Frequently Asked Questions About the ECCC

Why has it taken so long to bring to trial those alleged to be responsible for the crimes committed in the Khmer Rouge period?

History shows that it is very difficult to put people on trial while a war is still in progress. Cambodia first approached the United Nations for assistance to conduct a trial in 1997. Once the civil war ended in 1998, the Royal Government and the UN worked together towards implementing a new type of mixed national-international tribunal. It took some time to work out the details for this new type of court.

Why are we having trials now? How will the Khmer Rouge Trials benefit the people of Cambodia?

For over a quarter of a century, the Cambodian people waited for justice. With the establishment of the court, the senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea (the name of the state established by the Khmer Rouge) and those most responsible for serious crimes are being held accountable for their crimes.

Who can be put on trial?

In the spirit of achieving justice, truth and national reconciliation, the jurisdiction of the court is limited to the senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea (the name of the state established by the Khmer Rouge), as well as those who were the most responsible for committing serious crimes in the period of Democratic Kampuchea.

What sentence would the accused receive if convicted?

If convicted, the accused face a minimum sentence of five years to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The death penalty is unconstitutional in Cambodia. In addition, the court may order the confiscation of property or money that a defendant has acquired unlawfully or by criminal conduct. Any confiscated property will be turned over to the State. Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Will there be amnesties and pardons?

The Royal Government of Cambodia has stated that it will not request an amnesty or pardon for any person who may be investigated or convicted in these trials.

Have any of the Khmer Rouge senior leaders been tried before?

In 1979, there was a genocide trial in Phnom Penh known as the People's Revolutionary Tribunal. That tribunal tried Pol Pot and Ieng Sary and found both guilty of the crime of genocide, but neither of them appeared in court nor served any sentence. 

In 1997, the Khmer Rouge themselves tried Pol Pot for crimes allegedly committed within the organisation after 1979. Pol Pot died in 1998, so he will not be tried in this court.

Can foreign countries that supported or were involved with Democratic Kampuchea, or countries that may have committed war crimes in Cambodia before 1975, be put on trial?

No, this court can only try individuals for crimes that they committed during the Khmer Rouge period. It cannot try countries or organisations.

Can crimes alleged to have been committed by senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge or others after 1979 be tried?

No, this court can try only crimes committed in Cambodia between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.

How long will the trials take?

The duration depends on the time required to collect evidence, the number of people on trial, the number of witnesses called and the number of appeals made. When all trials and appeals are completed, the ECCC will be dissolved. 


Where are the trials taking place?

The trials take place in a large courtroom of the ECCC, which is situated on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on National Road 4, Chaom Chau Commune, Porsenchey District. 

How does the court work?

The cases are divided in a judicial investigation stage and a trial stage. The judicial investigation begins when the Co-Prosecutors (one Cambodian and one international) file an Introductory Submission, based on their preliminary investigation, to the Co-Investigating Judges (one Cambodian and one international). The Co-Investigating Judges conduct an impartial investigation of all the facts in the Introductory Submission to establish the truth.

Who can attend the trials?

These trials are for the people of Cambodia. Anyone over the age of 18 could attend the trial hearings at the courtroom. Children from 16-18 years old could attend if accompanied by an adult. Foreigners are welcome. There is no admission fee, and hundreds of seats are reserved for the general public.

If we cannot attend the court hearings in person, how will we know what is happening inside the court?

The trial proceedings can be followed via national and international radio, TV and print media.

How are the judges appointed?

Cambodian and foreign judges and co-prosecutors are appointed by Cambodian Royal Decree. The Supreme Council of the Magistracy selects Cambodian candidates from currently practicing judges. For international judges and co-prosecutors, the UN Secretary-General submits candidates to the Supreme Council of the Magistracy through the Royal Government of Cambodia. The selected candidates are then appointed by Cambodian Royal Decree.

How will the judges reach decisions?

The judges will try to reach unanimous agreement on any decision made. If they cannot all agree, then a decision requires what is called a 'super-majority'. In the Trial Chamber and in the Pre-Trial Chamber, a decision requires the vote of at least four of the five judges. In the Supreme Court Chamber, a decision requires the vote of at least five of the seven judges.

Who decides who will be put on trial? And who decides what they will be charged with?

Two Co-Prosecutors (one Cambodian and one foreign) collect preliminary evidence of alleged crimes committed and draft a list of suspects. The Co-Prosecutors forward their findings to the two Co-Investigating Judges (one Cambodian and one foreign).

What if the Co-Prosecutors or Co-Investigating Judges disagree on whether to take a case to trial?

They will try to reach agreement, but if they cannot, then the five judges in the Pre-Trial Chamber will meet to make a decision on whether to take the case to trial. The decision on whether to take a case to trial or not does not depend on a single individual.

What do the trial judges do?

The trial judges hear the evidence presented by the prosecution and defence, and by civil parties; they then consider both sides of the case, discuss among themselves and decide whether the accused person is guilty or not guilty. If the accused is found guilty, the judges also decide on the sentence. The trial judges must issue a written judgment explaining the reasons for their decision. If any judges disagree with the decision, they must also explain their reasons for voting differently from the majority. All the judgments will be made public.

What evidence will be used at the trials?

The Trial Chamber judges, the Co-Prosecutors, the defence and the lawyers representing the civil parties can present evidence during trials.

Examples of evidence:

What crimes can be tried? Do the trials use Cambodian law or international law?

The ECCC can try certain crimes under Cambodian law and certain crimes under international law. The judges have to decide whether crimes were committed and by whom. The challenge for the Co-Prosecutors is to present enough evidence to prove individual guilt for particular crimes.

What rights will the defendants have?

Defendants (charged Persons and accused) have rights under Cambodian and international law. These include the right to:

Who can be a witness?

A witness is a person who can give a firsthand or factual account relevant to investigations and trials falling within the mandate of the court. Such a person could be a victim or another person who has relevant information. This factual account amounts to “evidence”. Evidence given by a witness during investigations becomes part of the case-file, or, if given during the trial, it becomes part of the formal record of the hearing. Anyone considered important in establishing the truth during the investigations and trials could be asked to give such evidence, including experts.

Do I have to give information to the court?

If a Co-Prosecutor or a Co-Investigating Judge wants to interview you, you must tell the truth. However, you have the right to remain silent if you think the answers may incriminate you. Everyone has the right to call a lawyer to advise him/her and to be present during all questioning

What if I want to give information about someone who I believe committed serious crimes during the Khmer Rouge period?

As investigations into all cases in front of the ECCC have been concluded, a victim no longer could apply to become a civil party. However, a victim could still apply to become a complainant and/or a witness. Victims Support Section is available to advise on the proceedings. 

What support is given to witnesses and victims giving testimony, and to people around the country who may be distressed by hearing the testimony?

As it can be emotionally distressing to testify at the trials about the Khmer Rouge era, the court arranges psychological support for witnesses. Persons not testifying but nonetheless in need of counselling and support should contact their provincial office of the Mental Health Committee of the Ministry of Health or specialist NGOs that have clinics and doctors available in different provinces, such as Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation and Social Services of Cambodia.

How can victims participate in the trial?

Victims may want to file a complaint to the Office of the Co-Prosecutors informing them about crimes they believe have been committed. Victims who have suffered physical, psychological and material harm as a result of a crime investigated by the court may apply to become civil parties. Civil parties have the right to choose a lawyer. If needed, the ECCC helps them organise common legal representation.

Are victims be entitled to compensation?

If an Accused is convicted by the ECCC, victims may ask the court to make an order of reparations. Under Cambodian law, civil parties may claim compensation in criminal cases for damages they suffered from the crimes being tried. The ECCC can award collective and moral reparations that acknowledge the harm suffered by the civil parties and provides benefits to them but it cannot award individual financial compensation.

Why is the United Nations involved?

In June 1997, the then Co-Prime ministers, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Samdech Hun Sen, wrote to the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, requesting UN assistance in prosecuting the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. They asked for support because the Cambodian judiciary lacked sufficient resources and expertise to undertake such a complex task, especially given the magnitude of the crimes.

Why are the Khmer Rouge leaders not on trial at the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice?

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague was established in 2002. ICC can only hear cases about crimes that took place after its creation. The International Court of Justice )ICJ) only hears cases between states.

Is the ECCC a Cambodian or an international court?

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is a Cambodian court with international elements. It combines Cambodian and international judges, prosecutors, and defence lawyers. The ECCC applies both Cambodian and international law. Criminal tribunals with national and international elements are called 'hybrid', 'internationalized' or 'mixed' courts.

Are there any other courts in the world like the ECCC?

While the structure of the ECCC is unique, criminal tribunals combining national and international elements have recently been used in other contexts including Sierra Leone, East Timor, Kosovo and Bosnia. 

Why was this model chosen for the ECCC?

The hybrid tribunal model is seen as a way to provide full national involvement in the trials while at the same time ensuring that international standards are met. Unlike tribunals for Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia, these trials are not removed from the place where the crimes occurred. They are held in Cambodia, conducted mainly in Khmer, open to participation by Cambodian people and reported via local television, radio and newspapers.

How much do the trials cost?

The expenditures of the ECCC from its inception in 2006 until the end of December 2015 amounted to US$ 262.9 million. The preliminary expenditure for 2016 was US$ 30.2 million.

How is the court financed?

The ECCC is financed by voluntary contributions. Some 30 countries have joined the Cambodian government in funding the court. Donations earmarked for the ECCC are kept separate from other donor funds committed to development assistance in Cambodia. Japan is the single largest foreign donor, with its financial support accounting 31 percent of all international and national contributions.

How can I find out more information about the Khmer Rouge and the trials?

The ECCC’s Public Affairs Section is the first point of contact for public information about the court. For more information, please contact us by phone: +855 (0)23 861 500 or by email: 

What role do NGOs play?

Many local and international NGOs take an active interest in the Khmer Rouge trials. Their support ranges from offering witnesses and victims psychological counselling to providing information or legal advice and representation. NGOs also conduct unique community outreach programmes to complement the work of the ECCC.

Where can I find support services?

The ECCC's Victims Support Section and Witness Support Unit provide a range if assistance to victims and witnesses. While the Government and some NGOs provide mental health services, other NGOs and associations offer legal assistance and information outreach services.