The work of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the joint court established by Cambodia and the UN to try members of the Khmer Rouge for crimes against humanity, is well on its way after the first hearings were initiated in February 2008. The first trial may begin in mid 2008.
However, the proceedings face some initial difficulties, one of them being the inadequate funding available to the legal representation of the victims. The Cambodian procedural code – which is part of the procedural law governing the conduct of and before the ECCC – enables the victims of the Khmer Rouge to not only appear before the Court as witnesses but also to file complaints or to join the procedures as civil parties. These actions are being co-ordinated at the ECCC by the so-called Victims Unit. According to Rule 12 of the internal rules of the ECCC, the Victims Unit shall “maintain a list of foreign and national lawyers … who wish to represent Victims or Victims Associations before the ECCC”. Unfortunately, the Court itself does not provide any funding for the legal representation of the victims. For that reason some Cambodian lawyers who have taken on the task of representing victims, in order to procide with their work have received remuneration by NGOs. One way to improve the situation would of course be to raise additional funds. Another and perhaps more promising solution is to call for international lawyers willing and able to work on a pro-bono basis. For this reason, a call has been issued by Mrs Studzinsky, one of the international lawyers currently active before the ECCC, for additional support of international pro-bono layers. The call can be downloaded here. Thanks to Mr Stoffels at the International Criminal Defence Lawyers Germany e.V. (ICDL Germany) for drawing my attention to this issue.