Trial Chamber heard evidence on forced marriage and rape

Posted Fri, 09/02/2016 - 21:10 by Louise Thirion
Hearing of 30 August 2016  
Starting 22 August 2016, the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) began hearing evidence on the trial topic of Regulation of Marriage, including charges of forced marriage and rape during the period of Democratic Kampuchea. Eight Civil Parties, three witnesses, and two experts are currently scheduled to testify during this part of the trial in Case 002/02 of Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea. 
According to the Closing Order, the Communist Party of Kampuchea implemented a policy of regulation of marriage by any means necessary to defend and implement the socialist revolution in Cambodia, starting from before 1975 and continuing at least until 6 January 1979. Both men and women were allegedly forced to marry throughout Cambodia, often in mass ceremonies that would range from two to more than 100 couples at a time. By allegedly imposing the consummation of forced marriages, the perpetrators committed a physical invasion of a sexual nature against a victim under coercive circumstances in which the consent of the victim was absent. 
The closing statement of OCIJ states that one of several objectives of this policy was tocontrol the interaction between individuals, such that they were only permitted to marry and have sexual relations in accordance with CPK policy. The concept of marriage was reconstructed under the CPK regime in order for the CPK to replace the role of parents  and to enable the mothers to go to work. The CPK had the objective of increasing population growth  and “building up a family”. This objective was achieved by matching people with similar political status and marrying soldiers. Marriage was therefore a key means by which the CPK did “whatever can be done that is a gain for the revolution”. 
According to the Closing Order, there is evidence that the CPK forced people to marry as early as 1974. In September 1977, Pol Pot articulated a CPK objective of increasing Cambodia’s population to 20 million within ten to fifteen years. He also stated that marriage ceremonies were to be held for groups of couples at the same time. The policy relating to population growth was reaffirmed at a national medical conference opened by Pol Pot and attended by representatives of the CPK government ministries and offices, zones and sectors and the armed forces. The implementation of a system of marriages arranged by the Party authorities among the population and within the Party itself was disseminated through CPK publications  and reported to superiors through CPK telegrams. A report from the West Zone to Angkar provides information about marriage statistics and birth statistics. 
OCJI's Closing Order states that the official documents and statements refer to the supposed voluntary basis of such marriages: Pol Pot stated that “young men and young women [were to] build up families on a voluntary basis”  and marriages were said to be based upon a person’s proposal of a spouse according to the decision of the command committee. Numerous witnesses state that they were forced to marry. Even those officials who stated that individuals freely agreed to marriage noted that, in practice, people were not able to assert their opposition for fear of violence or death. 
In furtherance of this policy, single people in their twenties or early thirties were forced to marry by CPK authorities, usually in official buildings or in public places. After being made to spend a short period of time together, couples were required to return to their daily work and were brought together only when the CPK regime required, including in some cases to ensure consummation of the marriage. Some persons who did not agree to marriage in accordance with the Party line were deemed to be “enemies” however this was not applied in all instances of refusal. 
Six hundred and sixty four (664) civil parties were declared admissible with regards to the policy of the regulation of marriage, since the alleged crimes described in the application were considered as being more likely than not to be true, pursuant to Internal Rule 23 bis (4). These civil parties have provided sufficient elements tending to establish prima facie personal harm as a direct consequence of the crime of forced marriage.