Hidden behind the black screen

Their work has appeared on CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and numerous other TV-stations around the world.  Hidden behind a giant black glass screen inside the courtroom, the staff of the ECCC's Audio and Video Unit ensure that every word spoken in court is captured and transmitted - enabling all judges and parties to communicate with each other in Khmer, English and French, the three official languages of the ECCC.

Armed with six high definition video cameras and numerous microphones, AV Technician Mr. Khlok Soussolalin and his two colleagues make sure that everything happening in the courtroom gets properly documented and recorded.  Editing and directing the cameras in real-time, not a single word uttered will escape their attention before being transmitted to the court interpreters, who will interpret the spoken words into the two other official languages of the court.  This audio interpretation is in turn transmitted back to the actors inside the courtroom, all happening within milliseconds.

Mr. Khlok Soussolalin in the AV control room.

Mr. Khlok says it is very challenging to direct and mix the video and audio from 6 different cameras in real-time.  “Sometimes there are rapid exchanges between the different lawyers in the courtroom, and they may even be speaking to each other in different languages.  In a matter of seconds we have to choose which of the six cameras can best capture the current speaker”, Mr. Khlok explains. As the ECCC is a Cambodian court, the AV-team directs the cameras and mixes the video footage  based on the Khmer language audio feed.

Witness testimonies can sometimes pose additional challenges to the AV-team. During the trial hearings many witnesses have to recap very painful and personal memories from the past, and such testimonies may trigger strong emotions in the courtroom. “If a witness breaks down in tears during a testimony, we try to switch to a different camera so that the witness’ privacy can be respected. Our job is to document what is being said in court, not to produce a TV-show”, says Mr. Khlok.

Armed but not dangerous. Six cameras capture everything that goes on in the courtroom.

The audio and video feeds produced by the AV-team are also available to all media representatives who follow the proceedings in the media room. This enables the media to record and broadcast the audio and video from the court proceedings live. Many radio and TV-stations have used this opportunity throughout the proceedings. The opening statements in Case 002 were broadcast live on all Cambodian TV-stations, and the largest commercial Cambodian TV-station CTN/CNC has had several live broadcasts from the trial proceedings. The same feeds are also available in real-time in three languages on the ECCC website.

A team from CNN records the audio and video feed during the pronouncment of the verdict in the the case against Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch.

The work of the AV-team is not only important to ensure that hearings can run smoothly in three languages. The audio records produced for each trial hearing are also transcribed verbatim in order to make a transcript of the proceedings, a crucial tool for both judges and the parties in their preparation for future hearings, submissions and deliberations.

Although being standard practice in international courts, the scale of the audio and video recordings and systems in use at the ECCC is unprecedented in the Cambodian judiciary.  AV Professionals with experience from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) came to Phnom Penh to train the AV team at the ECCC prior to the commencement of the trials. To build local capacity, the AV-team was initially also supervised by an international staff member. When the international AV-supervisor resigned earlier this year it was decided that a new international AV-supervisor was not required, so the AV-team is now staffed exclusively with Cambodian nationals.

The AV-team (from left:Khlok Soussolalin, Dith Nimol and Hak Sothea).


The AV-team is hidden behind a giant black glass window in the courtroom.

Author of "Cambodia:Year Zero" testifies

On 7 May 1975, Francois Ponchaud was one of the last foreigners to leave Cambodia following the Khmer Rouge takeover on 17 April 1975. After having spent weeks in French Embassy compound in Phnom Penh, Mr. Ponchaud was deported by the new regime.  His book “Cambodia:Year Zero” was published in 1977.

Mr. Ponchaud took the witness stand to testify in Case 002 on Tuesday 9 April 2013.  Although being of French origin, Mr. Ponchaud, who first arrived in Cambodia in 1965, told the president of the Trial Chamber that he would prefer to give his testimony in Khmer.  Mr. Ponchaud was to provide and account of the situation in Cambodia between 1970-1975, and then to explain what he saw and experienced on 17 April 1975.

The testimony of Mr. Ponchaud is scheduled for 9, 10 and 11 April 2013, and you can follow the testimony through a live vide feed as follows:
French: :

Click on any photo below for a larger version.

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