Bringing the Khmer Rouge to Justice: The Challenges and Risks Facing the Joint Tribunal in Cambodia

Klein, Katheryn M. | January 1, 2006

This note analyzes the risks involved in the establishment of a joint tribunal in . It explores the several potential obstacles to the success of such a tribunal. First, it argues that the Cambodian government still exercises control over the Cambodian judiciary and the presence of a majority of Cambodian judges likely will cause the tribunal to lack credibility in the eyes of Cambodians and the international community. Second, through tracing the history of negotiations between and the United Nations regarding the establishment of the joint tribunal, this note argues that the Cambodian government greatly prolonged the process of reaching an agreement and has demonstrated a lack of good faith. Finally, this note argues that the structure of the tribunal is flawed. Specifically the features of the tribunal, which present risks to its success, include: (1) a lack of judicial independence due to interference by political manipulation of the Cambodian government, (2) no independent, international prosecutor, (3) the limited number of competent Cambodian judges and (4) a flawed supermajority formula. Lastly, this note contains a case study of the Special Court established in Sierra Leone and asserts that a Cambodian tribunal modeled after the Special Court may achieve several of the goals of the joint tribunal with substantially fewer risks.