How Has the Narrative of Civil Party Participation Before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia Shaped Perceptions of Justice?

Presentation by Sangeetha Yogendran at the 14th General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) (held virtually).

Civil party participation before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) remains a complex issue and one that has also been criticized from the outset. This is symbolic of a larger school of thought that victim participation in international criminal proceedings is still relatively in its infancy, and practice has demonstrated a far from cohesive approach. Many have applauded victim participation before the ECCC, stating that it is “long overdue recognition, after fifteen years of international and hybrid courts like [the ECCC], not to exclude victims from the justice that is being dispensed on their behalf.” For victims participating before the ECCC, many of whom may have engaged with such a justice process for the first time, their participation would have significantly influenced their perceptions of justice.

This paper seeks to examine how the ECCC shaped perceptions of justice for civil parties in their civil party participation scheme, and whether and how, as a result, perceptions of justice have been shaped, moved or even been defied. The ECCC was tasked with conceptualising, organising and implementing civil party participation, but this was initially implemented in a somewhat ad-hoc manner. The high uptake rate and procedural complexities of civil party participation, among various others led to several rounds of revisions to the ECCC’s internal rules, especially before the trial phase of Case 002. The revisions were meant to streamline and consolidate civil-party participation at trial and to “meet the requirements of trials of mass crimes and to ensure that ECCC proceedings responded more fully to the needs of victims”, given the high numbers that had registered for Case 002.

Given this group system of representation, civil parties were no longer participating as individuals but were represented by their civil party lawyers who were themselves represented by the Civil Party Lead Co-Lawyers. This paper will look at the narrative of such civil party participation coming from the ECCC, especially in implementing this form of group participation, and how this has shaped perceptions of justice for civil parties. To do so, this paper will look at the theoretical foundations behind narrative studies and vernacularization studies to explore how such a Tribunal-led participation process can shape perceptions of justice for those taking part in it.

Date & Time

August 24, 2020



Organized by European Consortium for Political Research