“But Duch is a senior leader/most responsible while Chaem is not?”

Michael,


I notice that you express admiration for Judge Bohlander’s integrity here but do not say the same for Judge Bunleng. I presume this is because he refused to investigate at all in Cases 003/004? It’s been several years since I followed KRT developments closely. Perhaps you can enlighten me.


We have yet to see the reasoning behind the dismissal for Chaem and I know very little of Judge Bohlander, having left the country some time before he started work.


But to a non-legal observer, two very sad questions jump to the fore:


1) OCIJ’s decision not to exercise jurisdiction over Chaem took eight years. Isn’t this what lawyers would call a “threshold” matter best disposed of at the beginning? And can’t it be decided without examining much of the evidence supporting the charges?


I interviewed victims and witnesses from crime scenes allegedly overseen by Chaem. They told me how much they suffered.


Did this process build up hopes of justice only to let them down, not by deciding guilt or innocence but on what to the general public will appear to be an abstruse technicality? One baked into the process not by impartial judges but during heavily politicized negotiations?


2) Please help me understand — how could the ECCC accept jurisdiction over Duch but not over Chaem? In making this decision, is Judge Bohlander at odds with the court’s own jurisprudence?


Duch may have been responsible for the systematic extermination of 12,000 to perhaps 20,000 people. Chaem, if rough OCP estimates are to be believed, had a hand in a number of deaths that could quadruple the upper bound of Duch’s death toll.


But Duch is a senior leader/most responsible while Chaem is not?


Douglas Gillisson1Douglas Gillison, an investigative reporter, has written for Time, the Village Voice, the New York Times and Foreign Policy. He was a staff writer at 100Reporters from 2013 to 2016. He served as Executive Editor of the Cambodia Daily from 2009 to 2011 and covered the ECCC from 2006 to 2011. 

Thank you, Doug, for your comment and questions!

My “express admiration for Judge Bohlander’s integrity,” as you put it, is no reflection, as you seem to suggest, that I find Judge You Bunleng to have less integrity or to be less deserving of appreciation.  By your own admission, you have not been following the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (“ECCC”) for years.  You are also not privy to much of what the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (“OCIJ”) has done, how it has been functioning, how it interacts with the parties, and, most of all, how the two Co-Investigating Judges work together.  Continue reading ““But Duch is a senior leader/most responsible while Chaem is not?””

Footnotes   [ + ]

When indiscretion leads to misinformation: irresponsible and impugning comments concerning Cases 003 and 004 at the ECCC

Judge You Bunleng (l) and
Judge Michael Bohlander (r)

On 22 February 2017, the Co-Investigating Judges at the ECCC decided to dismiss the case against Ms. Im Chaem finding that she did not meet the ECCC jurisdictional requirements of being a senior leader or one of those most responsible for alleged crimes during the Democratic Kampuchea regime during the ECCC’s temporal jurisdictional period of 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.

Almost immediately after the decision was made public, critics began beating the drums.  Expected.  Decisions of this sort can be disappointing, especially to civil parties / victims.  Lost in the scrum of blame-fixing  are the facts.  Continue reading “When indiscretion leads to misinformation: irresponsible and impugning comments concerning Cases 003 and 004 at the ECCC”

Book Review — The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial, by Lawrence Douglas.

The desire to forget lengthens exile, and the mystery of salvation is called remembrance.

Inscription at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust

Lawrence Douglas’s The Right Wrong Man is an essential read for anyone involved in international criminal law.  It is an exceptionally well-written, well-researched, and well-reasoned treatment of the events, circumstances, challenges, and resolutions of bringing John Demjanjuk to account for being “the ultimate replaceable cog in an exterminatory machine…not because he committed wanton murder, but because he worked in a factory of death.  He was convicted of having been an accessory to murder for a simple and irresistible reason – because that had been his job.”1 Lawrence Douglas, The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial 16 (Princeton University Press 2016). Continue reading “Book Review — The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial, by Lawrence Douglas.”

Footnotes   [ + ]

Sketches of the ECCC Supreme Court Chamber’s Judgement in Case 002/01

On 23 November 2016, the Supreme Court Chamber (SCC) of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) delivered the final judgement in Case 002/01, the first installment of Case 002 against the two remaining accused, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphân.  Case 002 covers the events that occurred throughout Cambodia from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979 – from the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge to when it fell to the Vietnamese-backed Cambodian forces (effectively, disaffected Khmer Rouge cadre who had gone over to Vietnam).

The outcome was not surprising. Continue reading “Sketches of the ECCC Supreme Court Chamber’s Judgement in Case 002/01”

Book Review – The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: Assessing their Contribution to International Criminal Law

meisenbergstegmillerfrontcoverBook Review

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: Assessing their Contribution to International Criminal Law, Simon M. Meisenberg and Ignaz Stegmiller (Eds.), T.M.C. Asser Press, 2016. Continue reading “Book Review – The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: Assessing their Contribution to International Criminal Law”

Learning from the ECCC experience

 

On 5 October 2016, I was invited to participate in a seminar organized by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Cambodia (OHCHR) in cooperation with the Bar bakcAssociation of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC), titled Questioning Techniques from the Defense’s Perspective and the Use of National and International Law in Legal Arguments. Held in Phnom Penh, this training was part of the Legal Dialogue Series 2016: a series of trainings organized by the OHCHR as part of its ongoing efforts to support and strengthen the development of Cambodian legal professionals, including by facilitating the dissemination of skills and knowledge from international and Cambodian lawyers at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to Cambodian lawyers practicing in local courts. Continue reading “Learning from the ECCC experience”

Damning international criminal defense with faint praise

 

Defense lawyers are expected to be flattered to read a purportedly positive piece from an outsider – a non-defense lawyer or someone who has never defended – on what it is they do and why.

Normally such praise-pieces never fail to comment on the obvious, such as the mother of all questions: How can we represent such criminals?, or that the facts are bad but everyone deserves  a fair trial, or how clever we need to be to design creative strategies and make acceptable (i.e., passing the laugh test) arguments, and so on. Routinely, the tone is one of feigned empathy and understanding, as if what they really want to say is: you poor thing, it is a dirty job, your client is guilty, you have no choice but to put up a smoke screen of a defense and try to delay and obstruct the proceedings, but someone has to do it so, so better you than me. How thoughtful of them.

And then occasionally there is the concerted attempt by someone who has legal training but has never been in the trenches, never defended (or prosecuted) a domestic case, let alone a case involving serious international crimes, to drill down and really try to explain in a broader context what it is that defense lawyers do and why, even crediting them with making legacy contributions towards the court’s historical narrative. Wow! Alice Murgier does just that in her article “The Legacy of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: Why Defense Work is Essential in Shaping the Historical Narrative of the Court,” posted on the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor’s website on 16 September 2016.

Murgier damns with faint praise. Continue reading “Damning international criminal defense with faint praise”

Judges’ questioning: are all questions fair game?

 

yellowcardWe all know that trials, like games, have their unique set of rules – who does what, when can this or that be done, what is permissible or impermissible, etc.  We generally refer to them as the rules of procedure and evidence.   In another context we might call them the rules of the road.  In sports we just call them the rules.  Try playing a game without them.  Worse yet, try playing a game where the referee is also a player and when it comes to his or her behavior, the rules apply or are redefined based on whim and fancy.  Just how fair would such a game be?

In the trial game, the parties have the right to ask questions, but so do judges.  Depending on the procedure, the judges may have the right to take the lead, leaving the prosecution and the defence to mop up.  When the parties have the right to take the lead, judges are expected to ask discrete questions, mostly for clarification, and not for the purpose of pursuing a preordained result (as prosecutors of all stripes and shades do). Continue reading “Judges’ questioning: are all questions fair game?”

Crimes Against Humanity – Part III: Is an attack by a state or organization against members of its own armed forces an attack directed against a civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity?

Part III

This is the third and final post dealing with the call for submissions by International Co-Investigating Judge Michael Bohlander of the ECCC who is currently investigating Cases 003 and 004.   Querying whether there was a lacuna in defining who may form a “civilian population” for the purpose of crimes against humanity, Judge Bohlander asked the parties and the amici:

Whether, under customary international law applicable between 1975 and 1979 [the temporal jurisdiction of the ECCC], an attack by a state or organisation against members of its own armed forces may amount to an attack directed at a civilian population?

As I noted in the first post, Judge Bohlander hinted that previous discussion on interpreting who constitutes a “civilian population” may have overlooked policy aspects such as whether there is a distinction between soldiers and civilians, and that such distinction “might only make sense if speaking of soldiers and civilians of an enemy population.”  He then opined or concluded – at least so it appears from his words – that “it would seem beyond dispute that a regime which in peace times tried to cleanse its own armed forces of, for example, all soldiers holding a particular ethnicity or faith, would be engaging in crimes against humanity, because the victims’ combatant quality merely because they are soldiers would be entirely irrelevant in this context…” and that “there is no reason to think otherwise if such a campaign happened in the course of or otherwise connected to an armed conflict.”(para. 5)

The first post dealt with the contextual background relevant to Judge Bohlander’s question and provided a synopsis of the overarching arguments put forward by the International Co-Prosecutor (“ICP”) and the amici who responded to the call for submissions.  Positions of the majority were relatively the same:  a state or organization’s own forces can constitute a civilian population for the purposes of crimes against humanity. The second post covers the amici’s and ICP’s arguments in detail though a series of questions inherent in their arguments.

In this final post, I set out the rationale behind the civilian population requirement and argue: Continue reading “Crimes Against Humanity – Part III: Is an attack by a state or organization against members of its own armed forces an attack directed against a civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity?”

Crimes Against Humanity — Part II: Is an attack by a state or organization against members of its own armed forces an attack directed against a civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity?

Part II

In the previous post I introduced the question raised by Judge Bohlander, the International Co-Investigating Judge for the ECCC, in his call for submissions: “whether, under customary international law applicable between 1975 and 1979 [the temporal jurisdiction of the ECCC], an attack by a state or organisation against members of its own armed forces may amount to an attack directed at a civilian population” for the purposes of crimes against humanity.  After setting out the context and relevance for posing this question, I provided a brief synopsis of the submissions.

In this post, I will deal the overarching arguments put forward by the amici and International Co-Prosecutor (“ICP”) in submitting that under customary international law between 1975 and 1979, a state or organization’s own armed forces can constitute a civilian population for the purposes of crimes against humanity. I will do so by answering the questions that emerge from their arguments, which I listed in the previous post.

  1. In customary international law, is the term “civilian population” given a broad interpretation to include members of a state’s own armed forces? And would excluding soldiers from the definition of “civilian population” lead to an “absurd result”?

Answer: no and no. Continue reading “Crimes Against Humanity — Part II: Is an attack by a state or organization against members of its own armed forces an attack directed against a civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity?”