Resources on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

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Information in English on the Extraordinary Chambers





  • The structure of the EC is determined by both the 2003 Agreement and the 2001 Law, as amended in 2004.

  • Investigations are carried out by international and Cambodian co-prosecutors and co-investigating judges.

  • Any disagreement between them is settled by a ‘Pre-trial Chamber’.

  • Cases are brought for trial before the ‘Extraordinary Chamber’ of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

  • A single appeal lies directly to the ‘Extraordinary Chamber’ of the Supreme Court.


Legal Status: Domestic Courts


  • The EC are Cambodian courts established by the Amended 2001 Law, as specialised chambers within the existing judicial hierarchy. They are not international courts: the 2003 Agreement mainly covers international cooperation with the EC and respect for international standards.

  • Since both documents have the status of law in Cambodia, it is unclear which should prevail in case of conflict. However, at least as regards international participation, the 2003 Agreement (an international treaty) should prevail.


Nature of international participation


  • Investigation stage:

    • two co-prosecutors with identical powers, one international and one Cambodian

    • two co-investigating judges with identical powers, one international and one Cambodian

    • a Pre-trial Chamber to resolve any disputes between the co-prosecutors or the co-investigating judges (same structure as the Trial Chamber – except that a ‘super majority’ is needed to block a decision)


  • Trial stage:

    • Trial Chamber: 5 judges, 2 international and 3 Cambodian (including the presiding judge) Decisions require a ‘super majority’ of at least 4 judges

    • Appeals Chamber: 7 judges, 3 international and 4 Cambodian (including the presiding judge) Decisions require a ‘super majority’ of at least 5 judges


Organisation of international participation


  • In accordance with the Cambodian Constitution, the Supreme Council of the Magistracy appoints all Cambodian judges, as well as international judicial personnel ‘upon nomination by the Secretary-General of the United Nations’, from lists provided by the latter: for details of UN nominees, see:

  • A Cambodian Director of the Office of Administration, Sean Visoth, is seconded by an international Deputy Director, Michelle Lee (both officially appointed on 24 November 2005).

  • All other international positions are posted on the UN recruitment website (select Duty Station = Phnom Penh)


Subject matter jurisdiction


  • International crimes: Genocide; Crimes against Humanity; Grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions (war crimes); 1954 Hague Convention on the protection of Cultural Property; 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (Amended 2001 Law, Arts. 4 to 8).

  • Serious crimes under Cambodian law (1956 Penal Code): homicide, torture, religious persecution (Amended 2001 Law, Art. 3).


Personal jurisdiction 

  • The EC have personal jurisdiction over two overlapping groups of people:

    • senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea; and

    • those who were most responsible for the crimes coming within the jurisdiction of the EC

  • Estimates of the number of people falling within these criteria vary, however, the EC will not have a sufficient budget to try large numbers of people. For a study of potential accused amongst "senior leaders" see: S. Heder, Seven Candidates for Prosecution: Accountability for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge

  • Two people are currently in pre-trial detention:


Temporal jurisdiction 

  • The temporal jurisdiction of the EC is strictly limited to the period from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979, during which the Democratic Kampuchea regime was in power.

  • Important to apply the definitions of crimes at the time of the crimes : nullum crimen sine lege principle


Territorial jurisdiction 

  • The territorial jurisdiction of the EC is not specified.

  • The Chambers will thus have to decide whether to try all the crimes coming within their jurisdiction, regardless of where they were committed (as in Sierra Leone), or to apply existing Cambodian law, which appears to restrict jurisdiction to crimes committed in Cambodia.




  • Procedure will follow Cambodian law (this may include the draft Code of criminal procedure currently under discussion if it is adopted in time).

  • However, the EC are authorised to seek guidance in ‘procedural rules established at the international level’ where Cambodian law ‘does not deal with a particular matter, or where there is uncertainty regarding the interpretation or application of a relevant rule of Cambodian law, or where there is a question regarding the consistency of such a rule with international standards’ [2003 Agreement, Art. 12(1)].


  • Under Cambodian law, victims have the right to be joined as civil parties to criminal proceedings, in order to participate in the trial and claim damages. These rights should be respected before the EC.

  • For more information on Khmer Rouge victims rights, see the CARIECJ website ("current activities" section); Victims’ Rights Working Group Bulletin No. 5 (2006); or David Boyle, "The Rights of Victims, Participation, Representation, Protection, Reparation", Symposium on Khmer Rouge trials, Journal of International Criminal Justice (2006) (abstract - article).


Associated truth and reconciliation process  

  • There is no official truth process in Cambodia

  • However, a US funded NGO, the Documentation Center of Cambodia is conducting extensive research in this field: see the DC-Cam website



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© 2002 2006 David Boyle. Tous droits réservés / All rights reserved.