Bringing the Khmer Rouge to Justice

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This book explores the legal issues surrounding accountability for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge and crimes of mass violence more generally. Comprising chapters authored by legal academics, lawyers, historians, artists, and others, the volume presents a thorough analysis of the complex problems inherent to such accountability efforts, and novel ideas as how to address them. Three chapters take the important and unusual step of examining aspects of accountability from the Cambodian and/or Therav?da Buddhist perspective, a viewpoint that has rarely been considered before in this context. Other chapters present thoughtful explanations for the failure of past accountability efforts, examine holes in the law authorizing a tribunal for senior Khmer Rouge leaders, and outline the evidence available and how it can be used for such a trial. Thus, the book presents the case for accountability in Cambodia from multiple perspectives.


“This book presents fresh insights into the sad failure of accountability for the Cambodian genocide – an ongoing issue that should be central to United States human rights policy. In the wake of the Holocaust, the United States provided ideological, institutional, and financial support to the international movement that arose to hold human rights violators criminally accountable for their abuses ... Current efforts to promote accountability for the Khmer Rouge, including the Tribunal and other institutions proposed in this book, provide a perfect opportunity for the United States government to demonstrate its sustained commitment to a principled human rights society. By embracing the imperative of accountability for mass crimes, along with sensitivity to the needs of local conditions, the United States can at the same time promote global norms of consistency with regard to the past and support future improvement in the domestic rule of law. By sketching where Cambodian justice has been, and where it must go, this book provides both a sobering window into the past and a hopeful guide for a better and more just future in that troubled country.” – (from the Preface) Harold Hongju Koh, Dean of Yale Law School, Gerard C. and Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law

“This edited collection on accountability for atrocities in Cambodia provides an extremely provocative and useful series of essays. The impending trials raise important and difficult questions for human rights scholarship and policy. To answer these questions, the editors have assembled an impressive group of contributors, including a number who are leading figures in human rights theory and practice ... the interdisciplinary nature of the collection, which brings together scholars from law, international relations, politics, and religion, as well as leading practitioners and policy makers, adds a distinctive depth and vision to the work.” – Laura Dickinson, Associate Professor, University of Connecticut School of Law

“Few events in modern history can match the horror and incomprehensibility of the ‘auto-genocide’ committed in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge. Three decades later, the attempt to hold its perpetrators criminally liable is finally beginning, as Cambodia convenes its Extraordinary Tribunal to try the aging architects of the genocide – those, at any rate, who are still alive ... this welcome book takes an important step toward helping us understand what it means to hold radical evil accountable. This book will be indispensable to students of Cambodia and international criminal law.” – David Luban, Frederick Haas Professor of Law and Philosophy, Georgetown University Law Center

Table of Contents

Preface (Harold Hongju Koh)
Prologue (Peter J. Hammer)
1. The Elusive Face of Cambodian Justice (Peter J. Hammer and Tara Urs)
2. “Onslaught on Beings”: A Therav?da Buddhist Perspective on Accountability for Crimes Committed in the Democratic Kampuchea Period (Ian Harris) 3. Preferences Matter: Conversations With Cambodians On The Prosecution Of The Khmer Rouge Leadership (William W. Burke-White)
4. Cambodia’s Judiciary: Up To The Task? (Brad Adams)
5. An Anatomy Of The Extraordinary Chambers (Scott Worden)
6. Documenting The Crimes Of Democratic Kampuchea (John D. Ciorciari with Youk Chhang)
7. The Cambodian Amnesties: Beneficiaries And The Temporal Reach Of Amnesties For Gross Violation of Human Rights (Ronald C. Slye)
8. The Tribunal and Cambodia’s Transition to a Culture of Accountability (Dinah PoKempner)
9. A Collective Response to Mass Violence: Reparations and Healing in Cambodia (Jaya Ramji)
10. Reassessing the Role of Senior Leaders and Local Officials in Democratic Kampuchea Crimes: Cambodian Accountability in Comparative Perspective (Steve Heder)

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