A major feature of the ECCC—and what may be its lasting legacy—is the special role it accords victims and survivors. Since the war crimes tribunals that followed World War II, victims have gradually gained a greater role in trials for international crimes, not only to provide evidence but also to preserve their rights to learn the truth, to have their voices heard, and to have their suffering acknowledged.
In the ECCC, victims can file complaints and apply to be “civil parties”—that is, actual parties to the legal proceedings alongside the prosecution and the defense. They can give testimony and directly question the accused in court.
Within Cambodia, the ECCC gives wide publicity to its activities through live video feeds, weekly call-in programs, translation of foreign language material into Cambodian, and television summaries of court sessions.
It has also helped bring Cambodians to witness the proceedings—so far, more than 165,000 have come, often riding buses from far-off communities. Many lived through the Khmer Rouge era, but others are young people who are getting their first real exposure to the terrors that shaped their parents’ generation. Private groups, meanwhile, organize workshops at schools and village gathering places to help educate the public about the court’s operations.