Yesterday, 3 May 2022, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) held the opening ceremony of the Workshop on “Victims and Dissemination of the Advisory Report on Victim-Related Activities of the ECCC during the Residual Phase.” The Workshop is taking place over the course of three days from 03 to 05 May 2022 at Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh.
Following the call from Co-Rapporteur Judges You Ottara and Claudia Fenz for the ECCC to undertake an open, consultative process in developing victim-related activities ahead of and at the outset of its imminent residual mandate, the ECCC has decided as a first step to organize this three-day workshop with victims, their representatives in civil society and the courtroom, and other key stakeholders. As the ECCC nears its three-year mandate for residual functions to respond to the needs of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime and to disseminate information about the transitional justice process to the public, this workshop begins a timely and valuable process to develop new programs and strengthen existing or prior ones centered on the needs of victims.
Yesterday morning’s opening ceremony featured welcoming remarks from H.E. Mr. KRANH Tony, Acting Director of Administration of the ECCC, H.E. Mr. Jacques PELLET, Ambassador of France and Co-Chair of the Friends of the ECCC, and H.E. Mr. KEO Remy, Delegate Minister Attached to the Prime Minister, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, and Permanent Vice Chairman of the Royal Government Task Force on the ECCC Proceedings.
Following the opening remarks from these esteemed guests, the program’s activities began in more detail. Stanford University professor, Dr. David J. COHEN, who is functioning as moderator of the three-day workshop, gave some brief remarks and then introduced a video message sent to the workshop participants from H.E. Dr. Beth VAN SCHAACK, United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice. In her brief video remarks, Ambassador Van Schaack noted, “With the establishment of residual functions of the ECCC, and with the encouragement laid out in the advisory report recommendations, you have a rare opportunity to ensure that efforts continue to be made to heal the wounds of those who have suffered.” The video recording of Ambassador Van Schaack’s full remarks are available to view on the ECCC’s Youtube page here: https://youtu.be/8PW14gKl_WY
Following the video, Ms. YIM Sotheary was introduced to give the workshop’s opening keynote speech. Ms. YIM Sotheary, a psychotherapist, peace and conflict consultant, and founder and CEO of Sneha enter gave a speech about her experiences working closely with victim-survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime over the last 18 years. She spoke about the importance of focusing on healing and developing new tools and ways of discussing the past with victim-survivors who may suffer from trauma due to their historical experiences. She explained that after hearing many negative stories from the past, she started asking some new questions to survivors: “What made them survive? Where did they find the strength to cope with the situation? What are their dreams?”.
In the afternoon sessions yesterday, the approximately 90 participants — including Civil Parties, lawyers and parties of the ECCC, representatives of NGOs, international organizations, and academia — were split into eight different working groups to focus on different issue areas with opportunities for developing and strengthening programs centered on victims.
The participants also had the honor of hearing from a second keynote speaker, Mr. Karim A.A. KHAN, QC, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The Prosecutor spoke about his experience as a Civil Party lawyer working on behalf of victims in Case 001 at the ECCC. He spoke extensively about his surprises and lessons from working with victims as direct participants in the proceedings, recalling memories such as Civil Party NETH Phally sharing a photograph of his deceased brother and speaking to his brother’s spirit from the witness stand. He emphasized the importance of including and involving the voices of victims in trial proceedings and in the upcoming residual functions of the ECCC.
The events continue this morning with further keynote speakers and discussion sessions.