Thursday, October 28, 2010

H.E. DR. SOK AN, Deputy Prime Minister Speaks on ECCC

H.E. DR. SOK AN, Deputy Prime Minister,

Minister in Charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers,
Chairman of the Khmer Rouge Task Force and Signatory to the Agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and United Nations on the occasion of the visit to the ECCC of His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
ECCC, October 27, 2010

-   Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United  Nations and Madame
-  Excellencies Under and Assistant Secretaries-General of the United Nations
-  Judges, Co-Prosecutors, Staff of the ECCC
-  Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today I am honoured to welcome Your Excellency Secretary-General and Madame, and distinguished members of your delegation on this visit to the ECCC.

On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and in my capacity as the Chairman of the Task Force on the Khmer Rouge Trials and Signatory of the Agreement, I extend my compliments and sincere appreciation for the cooperation by the United Nations in establishing and building the ECCC to its present well functioning state.

In 1997 the Cambodian government sought the help of the United Nations in bringing a long-delayed accountability for heinous crimes committed in this country between 1975 and 1979. The United Nations responded positively to this request and began the process that has led us here today – a process that charted new ground in international justice, and which has benefited from your continuing commitment during the nearly four years that you have held this august office.

The ECCC began operations in early 2006 and in its initial year focused on operational and procedural issues before launching the first case in mid-2007. In the three years since then the ECCC has made sound progress in addressing its work load.

The trial in Case 001 was widely welcomed, both nationally and internationally. The Trial Chamber comprising three national and two international judges found Kaing Guek Eav (known as Duch) guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. All three parties (defence, prosecution and civil parties) have filed notices of appeal to the Supreme Court Chamber, to be decided over the coming months.

In the words of Senator John Kerry, “Duch’s conviction is a milestone for Cambodia”.

The ECCC has proved beyond doubt its ability to conduct complex trials to international standards, and very importantly it has affirmed that sufficient and significant capacity has been built within the Cambodian side of the ECCC.

We need to seize this opportunity and make efforts to integrate this knowledge and skills into the overall Cambodian legal and judicial structure. Experience in other courts around the world dealing with mass crimes of this nature in which the international community has been involved shows that it is by no means a foregone conclusion that knowledge and skills will be transferred. It is all too easy to devote all attention on the pressing demands and challenges of the judicial process in hand, without spending the time and resources needed to ensure a sound legacy. In Cambodia we have a proverb, “The boat departs, but the port remains”. We need to ensure that the people of Cambodia fully understand what has taken place in the ECCC, feel that justice has been done, and further that they reap ongoing benefit from the enhancement of our legal and judicial system. This was always an explicit objective for the ECCC shared by both the Royal Government and the United Nations, and is one of the most important parts of the true and lasting legacy of the ECCC.

Alongside this transfer of knowledge and capacity, the ECCC is currently planning other aspects of its legacy, such as ensuring that the court’s archives are kept in a secure place which is now under construction, and are made accessible in different forms for the Cambodian people as well as international scholars and jurists. And of course the greatest legacy of all is bringing a long-awaited sense of justice and accountability for crimes committed so long ago.

As to Case 002, the Closing Order was delivered last month and the trial is expected to start next year. Case 002 is vastly more complex. The four surviving senior leaders of the regime are charged in what is arguably the most important such case in international legal history. With these two cases, the court can establish the historical record and judicial accountability by the senior leaders and those most responsible for the suffering of the Cambodian people over the period of 3 years, 8 months and 20 days. We look forward to the continuing support of the international community in this endeavour to bring justice to the victims of the Khmer Rouge, once and for all.

May I take this opportunity to extend our deepest appreciation to the judicial officers and the staff of the ECCC, both national and international, for the dedication they have shown in carrying out the challenging and demanding tasks in discharging the mandate with which they have been entrusted.

Many have spoken about the five world records set by the ECCC – speed of carrying out its work including adoption of internal rules and conducting the first trial, its relatively low cost, the absence of any fugitives, the extent of public support and the involvement of victims in the judicial process. The ECCC is now internationally recognized as a good model not only for Cambodia, but also for internationally assisted courts that may be established in the future. The most pressing challenge now is to ensure that the remaining workload of the ECCC is conducted smoothly and completed in a timely and efficient manner. If we succeed in meeting this challenge, we will have achieved a sixth world record.

On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I once again express our firm commitment to the ECCC and to ending impunity for the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime, and express our willingness to continue to work constructively with our partners and all stakeholders to ensure that the ECCC, as an independent judicial institution, completes its mandate as enshrined in the Law and the Agreement, and leaves a sound and lasting legacy for the Cambodian people as well as the international community.

Thank you!

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