Washington International Law Journal


Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge regime was responsible for approximately 1.7 million deaths caused by deportation, starvation, murder, and torture. In 2001, Cambodia established the Extraordinary Chambers, an internationalized domestic tribunal, or “hybrid court,” to prosecute the perpetrators most responsible for these atrocities. As the Cambodian government’s primary legal response to the Khmer Rouge, the tribunal conflicts with the requirements of Article 52 of the Cambodian Constitution, an article that requires a policy of national reconciliation to ensure national unity. Cultural conceptions of national reconciliation coupled with the legislative history and purpose of the constitution strongly suggest that this provision disallows the Cambodian government from pursuing laws and policies that undermine truth or national healing. However, because of the Extraordinary Chambers’ questionable impartiality, limited public involvement, and constrained personal jurisdiction, this tribunal undermines the very truth and healing that are essential to national reconciliation. Cambodia should therefore look to other mechanisms of transitional justice to supplement its tribunal. Given the political and economic infeasibility of a “truth and reconciliation commission,” Cambodia should establish informal mechanisms of transitional justice to supplement its tribunal and further national reconciliation.

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