Justice and Reconciliation after the Khmer Rouge Regime: What has been achieved?

On the occasion of 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 in 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, lawyers, experts from a number of different disciplines as well as Khmer Rouge victims. 

The first panel was introduced by Ms Barbara Lochbihler, 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 Maria 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). The experts respectively analysed the contributions made by Latin America and the ECCC to the international fight against impunity.

An introduction to the second panel on healing the wounds 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 in conflict and post-conflict settings, and integrated by Mr Sotheara Chhim, from  Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation Cambodia (TPO), Mr Tim Minea, from Kdei Karuna and Ms. Kasumi Nagakawa, from Pannasatra University. Mr Sotheara opened the discussion by addressing the lessons and challenges of overcoming the trauma in Cambodia’s society, followed by Mr Tim, who analysed whether there is a need for a civil society truth commission in Cambodia. Lastly, Ms. Kasumi Nagakawa, from Pannasatra University provided some remarks about gender based violence during the Khmer Rouge regime.

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 civil society truth commission were stressed as imperative needs towards the construction a full historical narrative that incorporates many different voices.