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The Victims Support Section of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) conducted a Regional Civil Party Forum on 14 June to inform more than 200 out of the 3,866 civil parties from 6 provinces of the progress of the proceedings of Case 002. Having been monitoring the proceedings in Case 002 closely as an intern with the Public Affairs Section of the ECCC, and having recently listened to the Victim Impact Hearings it was a great opportunity to understand better the processes of victim participation in the ECCC and its significance in rebuilding in the aftermath of the mass atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge era, and to learn what the issues of greatest concern are to the Civil Parties in Case 002.
Throughout the day the Civil Parties received updates on the current work and progress of cases before the ECCC. They were also able to discuss with their lawyers the implications of the severance order of Case 002 and receive information of their rights. The participants also heard a presentation by the Office of the Co-Investigating Judge, where those in attendance where encouraged to examine the list of crime sites disclosed for Cases 003 and 004 and to come forward if they believe they have information on crimes committed in these locations or would like to become Civil Parties in these cases.
The range of questions asked by the participants was a testament to the necessity of conducting such forums. In a nation which is still highly dependent on limited print and radio news sources and word of mouth, as well having a high illiteracy rate particularly in the rural areas, such forums are crucial to ensure the accurate dissemination of information. Their questions frequently centered on concerns over the health of the remaining Accused and the likelihood that they will remain fit to be sentenced, confusion over their recent statements of apology during the victim impact hearings, and the types and forms of reparation that they were entitled to. Though the answer might not have always been to the their satisfaction, more often than not the ECCC representatives were able to allay their fears or improve their understanding of the issues.
Having just recently witnessed the Victim Impact Hearings of 15 Civil Parties in Case 002, attending the forum held an increased significance and provided me with a greater understanding of this aspect of the ECCC’s work. Involving the victims in the legal process has clearly been a very important step in the healing process for the individual as well as the collective. At different moments the Civil Parties expressed hope, happiness, anxiety and sorrow, but were at all times appreciative and engaged in the proceedings. The Civil Parties I had a chance to speak with all expressed their gratitude to the ECCC for including them in the process. Further, each person believed that the ECCC would bring them justice, and felt that their voice was well represented in the judicial process by their Civil Party Lawyers. They were also appreciative of the work of the Victims Support Section, both in terms of the support offered and work of developing reparation activities.