Civil Peace Service: Reconciliation and justice in the context of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
Title: Civil Peace Service (CPS): Reconciliation and justice in the context of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Overall term: 2014 to 2017
Thirty years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, surviving senior members of the regime, who were responsible for the killing of 1.7 million people, are being tried at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and supported by the United Nations, this Cambodian court sentenced the former commander of a prison and torture facility to lifelong imprisonment in February 2012. The trial of two former Khmer Rouge leaders has been running since late 2011.
The Cambodian people are still traumatised by the mass political killings and decades of civil war. The country’s failure to come to grips with its past is hampering its efforts to peacefully establish democratic structures based on the rule of law.
The Cambodian people are better able to deal with the horrors of the civil war and genocide, and have increasing access to methods and structures designed to support civil conflict transformation.
Experts from the Civil Peace Service (CPS) are supporting several governmental and non-governmental partner organisations in their efforts to ensure that the crimes of the past are not forgotten and to build a peaceful future. To achieve sustainable results, the project prioritises youth and education work.
Outreach campaigns are conducted to inform the population about the reign of terror of the Khmer Rouge and about the work of the tribunal and its role in rebuilding society. These activities help to bring the message of justice and reconciliation out of the confines of the courtrooms and into Cambodian society. Through dialogue between victims and perpetrators, survivors of the regime are involved in the process of dealing with the past.
CPS supports lawyers representing joint plaintiffs at the tribunal. Reparation projects and non-judicial compensation measures are helping to provide victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime with a sense of closure.
Fostering a culture of remembrance helps ensure that all social groups are involved in shaping a peaceful future. Survivors and their descendants are given psychological support to help them cope with their traumatic experiences.
More than two thirds of Cambodians believe that the ECCC is helping to achieve justice for the victims and is making a valuable contribution towards rebuilding society.
In what is known as Case 2 – the trial of the surviving senior members of the Khmer Rouge regime – 3,850 joint plaintiffs are permitted to give evidence, more than half of whom are women. Among these plaintiffs are victims of gender-specific violence. Psychosocial support has demonstrably helped them to cope with the stress of taking part in the trial and testifying confidently in court.
General and symbolic reparation projects help to impart knowledge, heal wounds and foster a culture of remembrance.
Former members of the Khmer Rouge, along with people who put up silent opposition to the regime or helped victims, are now speaking publicly about their experiences. Memorial committees have been set up at places where the atrocities were committed. In their projects they raise awareness of the past using artistic means. Dialogue between young people and survivors helps to ensure the past is not forgotten. To improve the rule of law, students are also learning about the work of the tribunal.