On the 40th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh, the Heinrich Böll Foundation organised a conference with the purpose of assessing the achievements and the shortcomings of Cambodia’s transitional justice process. “Justice and Reconciliation after the Khmer Rouge Regime: What has been achieved?” took place in Meta House, Phnom Penh, on 18 February 2015, and brought together researchers and experts from a number of different disciplines.
The first panel was introduced by Ms Barbara Lochbiller, Member of the European Parliament, who referred to the fight against impunity in the context of the International Criminal Court. Ms Chak Sopheap, from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), chaired the first panel integrated by Ms María Lobato, human rights lawyer and adviser at the Heinrich Böll Foundation and Mr Salim Nakhjavani, Assistant Prosecutor at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), who respectively analysed the contributions made by Latin American states and the ECCC to the international fight against impunity.
An introduction to the second panel was delivered by Mr Marcos Smith from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The panel was moderated by Ms Theresa de Langis, senior specialist on Women, Peace and Security, and was integrated by Dr. Sothara Muny from Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation Cambodia (TPO), Mr Tim Minea, Kdei Karuna’s Executive Director and Ms Kasumi Nakagawa, from Paññãsãstra University. The discussion was opened by Mr Sothara, who addressed the lessons and challenges of overcoming the trauma in Cambodian society, and followed by Mr Tim Minea analysis of whether there is a need for a civil society truth commission in Cambodia. Lastly, remarks about gender-based violence during the Khmer Rouge regime were provided by Ms. Kasumi Nakagawa.
The panellists acknowledged the importance of historical truth both for healing and in order to break the circle of impunity. For these purposes, solidarity among the community of practitioners and the creation of a coalition in civil society were underscored as imperative needs towards the construction a full historical narrative that incorporates many different voices.