The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, helps bring justice to Cambodian victims through accountability by trying senior Khmer Rouge leaders, and helps Cambodia build important groundworks to prevent mass atrocities. Allegation of crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot finally received the attention of the UN and the Cambodian government, when in August 2001 the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk signed the law on the establishment of the ECCC for the persecution of crimes committed during the period of Democratic Kampuchea. The joint exercise of justice began its first mandate between 2006-2008 to trial limited senior Khmer Rouge leaders who were most responsible for the crimes the Pol Pot’s regime committed from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.
The ECCC is now winding down with the closure the last case by the end of this year. There are future works to remain on how to preserve the archives and make them accessible to the public as well as how ECCC prevents the recurrence of genocide in Cambodia and around the world, by the educational program designed for the younger generations of Cambodia to have a more holistic understanding of the darkest tragedy of Cambodia. The ECCC court has trialed 5 senior Khmer Rouge leaders. They were Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch, former Chairman of Phnom Penh’s Security Prison S-21;NuonChea, former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Cambodia; Khieu Samphan, former Head of State of DK; Ieng Sary, former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of DK, and Ieng Thirith, former Social Affairs Minister of DK. Only Khieu Samphan is still presently alive.
On 3February 2012, ECCC sentenced life imprisonment for Duch of crime against humanity. He passed away in 2020. On 16November 2018, ECCC released other verdicts to sentence for life imprisonment for Khieu Samphan and Noun Chea of genocide, crime against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Noun Chea passed away in 2019. The court tried to complete legal due process for Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith but with no success due to the accused’s health circumstances. Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith passed away in 2013 and 2015, respectively. After more than15 years, it is important to reflect some positive roles of this hybrid court to help bring justice through accountability to the Cambodian victims who lost loved ones and suffered traumas from the Khmer Rouge perpetrators when Democratic Kampuchea ruled Cambodia and what this means for the future efforts to prevent mass atrocities in Cambodia.
There have been reported challenges concerning the ECCC ranging from funding to some difficult processes with the ways the mix-court works. But the scope of this article focuses the discussion on how the ECCC helps contribute to justice through accountability and how this hybrid court helps develop some essential bases for Cambodia’s atrocity prevention which can in turn promote the norm of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) which was adopted at the 2005 UN World Summit.