The purpose of hearing victims’ suffering

Posted Fri, 06/07/2013 - 14:16 by Mr. Lars Olsen

Over the last two weeks of trial hearings, 15 victims who are participating in Case 002 as Civil Parties provided emotional testimonies about the harm they suffered personally during and in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime. Referred to as ‘victims impact hearings’, they concluded yesterday with the expert testimony of Dr. CHHIM Sotheara, who was questioned about this mental health work with survivors of the regime.


A short video clip with extracts from three of the testimonies


In order to be admitted as Civil Party, a victim must ”demonstrate as a direct consequence of at least one of the crimes alleged against the Charged Person, that he or she has in fact suffered physical, material or psychological injury upon which a claim of collective and moral reparation might be based” (Internal Rule 23 bis (1) (b)).

Civil Parties participate in the ECCC proceedings to pursue a claim for moral and collective reparation. Any reparation award is contingent upon a conviction of an Accused person. Collective and moral reparations are measures that:

a) acknowledge the harm suffered by Civil Parties as a result of the commission of the crimes for which an Accused is convicted and

b) provide benefits to the Civil  Parties which address this harm. These benefits shall not take the form of monetary payments to Civil Parties.
(Internal Rule 23 quinquies)

It is the Co-Investigating Judges, or in case of appeal, the Pre-Trial Chamber that will decide if a victim meets the requirement above to be admitted as a Civil Party.  When considering the admissibility of the Civil Party application, the Co-Investigating Judges shall be satisfied that facts alleged in support of the application are more likely than not to be true (Internal Rule 23 bis (1))

The 15 Civil Parties who were called to testify about harm suffered, were called based on a list of Civil Parties proposed by the Civil Party Lead Co-Lawyers and the Civil Party Co-Lawyers. The Civil Parties on this list were selected among the 3,866 Civil Parties admitted to Case 002 on the basis of the evidence they could provide on suffering, the relationship between this evidence and the crimes being tried in Case 002/01, and the diversity of impacts (suffering) represented.

We asked the Civil Party Lead Co Lawyers Mr. Pich Ang and Ms. Elisabeth Simonneau to explain the purpose of the hearings of impact and suffering from the perspective of Civil Parties:

“In the context of these legal proceedings and from the perspective of the Civil Parties, the purpose of the Hearings on Victim Impact is twofold .First, it is to provide the Trial Chamber with detailed, concrete and compelling evidence on the impact (suffering) experienced by Civil Parties as a consequence of the crimes alleged to have taken place in Democratic Kampuchea, particularly that evidence on impact (suffering) which relates to the crimes being tried in Case 002/01: forced transfer phases 1 and 2 and the executions at Tuol Po Chrey. This evidence will assist the Trial Chamber in assessing the gravity of the crimes, placing them in their proper context, and determining the appropriateness of the reparations claimed to remedy these harms. Accordingly, the Hearings on Impact are an essential mechanism for bringing the human toll of these crimes into the proceedings.

Second, though not the raison d'être for these hearings, another undeniably important aspect of these hearings is the opportunity they provide for at least a limited number of Civil Parties to tell their stories in an official, judicial setting with the presence of (and sometimes exchange with) one or more of the Accused. Under the right circumstances, this can be a meaningful, empowering and healing experience for civil parties wherein the process itself provides a reparative benefit—in the broader meaning of the term”

During the trial, Civil Parties do not participate individually – they comprise one consolidated group of Civil Parties. Ms. Simmoneu-Fort confirms that in this context, the 15 Civil Parties who testified during the last two weeks symbolically seek to demonstrate the harm suffered on behalf of the whole consolidated group of Civil Parties in Case 002.


Complete testimony of Mrs. Bay Sophany on 4 June 2013: