Balancing Retributive & Restorative Justice at the Extraordinary Chambers In Pursuit of National Reconciliation

Stream: Panel 11 - International Relations: Transitional Justice in the Asia Pacific
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


In 2008 the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) issued its first indictment for crimes against humanity. While trials are not typically the platform for victims to share their story, the ECCC has distinct elements of restorative justice that are more commonly associated with truth and reconciliation commissions. The ECCC seeks to employ two distinct institutional responses to human rights violations by balancing both retributive and restorative models of justice for the mass crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge. Unlike earlier hybrid tribunals, the ECCC’s mandate jointly seeks to achieve both justice and national reconciliation for the Cambodian people. At the ECCC the broad scope of victim participation in the court’s proceedings is a unique component of the tribunal. The benefit of this structure is that it provides a platform for truth telling to occur without the formal establishment of a TRC or formal state response. This paper draws on the experiences of participants and key stakeholders to explore if victim participation has facilitated the tribunal’s mandate for national reconciliation. It explores what national reconciliation should look like in the Cambodian context in order to make a current assessment of the tribunal’s reconciliation agenda. This paper examines the ways in which the ECCC has adapted the concept of hybrid tribunals to facilitate a more holistic justice process, and provides valuable insights concerning their future implementation in the transitional justice field.


Lucy West (Presenter), Griffith University
Lucy West is a PhD candidate at the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University in Brisbane. Her research explores the limits to operationalising the rule of law within the judiciary and police sector in post-transitional Cambodia.