Dictionary of Gross Human Rights Violations

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC) was created in order to try the leaders of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was a political movement that was responsible for gross human rights violations in Cambodia including the deaths of approximately three million people through targeted killings, torture, and starvation (for more information see Cambodia, Gross Human Rights Violations in). The Khmer Rouge (under the leadership of Pol Pot) took power in Cambodia on the 17th of April 1975 and was overthrown on the 7th of January 1979. Their violence was directed at certain political, religious, ethnic, and class groups labelled by the Marxist Khmer Rouge as "counter-revolutionaries."

In 1997 the government of Cambodia requested the assistance of the United Nations (UN) in bringing to justice those responsible for the gross human rights violations of the Khmer Rouge period. In 2001 the Cambodian parliament passed the law establishing the ECCC. It was decided that the ECCC should be a hybrid court (partly international and partly national) in order that the trials conducted should meet international standards yet be easily accessible to Cambodians (all the trials will be conducted in Phnom Penh and will be predominately in the Khmer language). An example of a similar hybrid court is the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

The ECCC will be comprised of five international judges and seven Cambodian judges. There will be two chambers: a Trial Chamber (three Cambodian judges and two international judges) and Supreme Court (appeals) Chamber (four Cambodian judges and three international). Decisions by the court will require a "super-majority" (four out of five judges in the Trial Chamber and five out of seven judges in the Supreme Court Chamber). The Cambodian judges will receive training in international criminal law, while the international judges will be trained in Cambodian laws at the Royal School for Judges and Prosecutors in Phnom Penh. There will also be one Cambodian prosecutor and one international prosecutor, as well as, one Cambodian investigating judge and one international investigating judge. Other administrative positions will also be divided between Cambodian and international personnel.

The court will have jurisdiction over elements of Cambodian law and international criminal law. The following Cambodian crimes will fall under the ECCC’s mandate: murder, torture, and religious persecution. The court will also have jurisdiction over the following international crimes: crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against protected persons (i.e. diplomats). The rules of procedure of the court will be in accordance with rules and standard practise within the Cambodian system.

The ECCC will seek to try only those that are the most responsible (i.e. high-ranking leaders and those the most responsible for serious crimes). The court will not offer any amnesties. It will also not try anyone posthumously. The ECCC plans to begin trials later this year and forecasts that all trials will be finished in three years. However, this may be an overly optimistic target if one considers the record of other international tribunals such as the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia).