From April 17, 1975 to January 6, 1979, Cambodia was under the administration of a so-called government, called Democratic Kampuchea. Within this period, not less than one million of Cambodian people were perished of starvation, slavery, sickness and other arbitrary executions. To prevent such the atrocity in the future, in 1997 the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia (RGKC) requested assistance from the United Nations to establish a tribunal to bring those most responsible for genocide from 1975 to 1979 to justice.
Though categorized into as the crime of genocide, RGKC still decided not to bring most senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea to International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague, for two reasons: 1. For the sake of Cambodian people; and 2. Cambodia was one of the founding member of ICC and ICC was established in 2002, which was after the era of Democratic Kampuchea. However, due to weakness in legal human resources and lack of quality facilities to ensure a smooth and fair and internationally recognized trial, RGKC invited participations from international judges and other court personnel, to work together with the Cambodian ones. Despite taking place in Cambodia, related international laws and international customary laws will be used during the course of the trial.
In 2001 the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia adopted a law to create a court to try serious crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime 1975-1979. This court is called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (Extraordinary Chambers or ECCC). In June 6, 2003, an international legal instrument, entitled “Agreement Between the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia Concerning the Porsecution Under Cambodian Law of Crimes Committed During the Perioud of Democratic Kampuchea" was singed in Phnom Penh, between H.E Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and Mr. Hans Corell, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs of the Legal Counsel.
The above mutual agreement between Cambodia and the United Nations plays a role as guidelines for ECCC’s legal procedures and other subsequent rules. There are thirty-two articles, ranking from Purpose (Article 1) to Entry into Force (Article 32). Article one of the agreement states “The purpose of the present Agreement is to regulate the cooperation between the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia in bringing to trial senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible for the crimes and serious violations of Cambodian penal law, international humanitarian law and custom, and international conventions recognized by Cambodia, that were committed during the period from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979. The Agreement provides, inter alia, the legal basis and the principles and modalities for such cooperation.”
Despite ECCC exists within the present Cambodian court, with assistance from the United Nations, ECCC is independent from the Cambodian court as well as the United Nations.
The first trials are expected to take place in 2007. It is estimated that the trials may run for three years although no precise estimate is presently possible. Their length will depend on how long investigators need to collect evidence, how many people are put on trial, how many witnesses are called and how many appeals are made. When all trials and appeals are completed, the Extraordinary Chambers will be dissolved.
The trials will take place in a large court room on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on National Road 4, Ang Village, Kantok Commune, Ang Snuol District.
There will be 7 judges for the Trial Court Chamber: 3 Cambodian + 2 International. Appeals will go from the Trial Court to the Supreme Court which is the highest level. 7 judges for the Supreme Court Chamber: 4 Cambodian + 3 International. Under Cambodian law today, as in many other countries, there are no juries or people's assessors. All decisions will be made by the judges. The Supreme Court Chamber is the final court.
For more information about ECCC, please visit: www.eccc.gov.kh.