Understanding the effects and impact of victim participation and reparations at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Victim participation before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia has often been applauded for the role foreseen for victims before the Court, stating that it is long overdue recognition, after many years and a history of hybrid tribunals, to not exclude victims from the justice that is being dispensed on their behalf. Many propositions have been made about the soothing effects of this kind of victim participation, and victims are said to gain among many other things, a sense of control, an ability to lessen their isolation and be reintegrated into their community, and the possibility of finding meaning through participation in these processes. Others believe that participation can restore a victim’s dignity by instilling a sense of agency and capacity to act, which the original abuse sapped. An important dimension of participation is “truth-telling”, which is considered by many as being fundamentally and necessarily beneficial. The notion that victims by definition, benefit from participation (in criminal justice processes) is powerful, but is also increasingly disputed.

The aim of this project is to ask (a) whether victims and civil parties before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia have benefited from their participation before the tribunal in Cases 001 and 002, (b) how they believe they benefited from their participation (if at all), and (c) what the significance is of the reparations orders made.

In doing so, the project aims to understand the impact of participation on the understanding of victims’ rights and on their experiences of justice in Cambodia, and to question whether their participation was in fact beneficial to them and to transitional justice processes. This study will employ mixed-methods qualitative and quantitative approaches and will entail fieldwork in Cambodia with several groups of victims and civil parties, along with affiliates of the Tribunal and civil society.