Victim Participation in International Criminal Justice - The Case of the ECCC: Real Power or Empty Rhetoric?


On Thursday, 16 February 2017, Dr Rudina Jasini presented a seminar on the role, scope and implications of victims’ participation in international criminal proceedings. Rudina discussed the complex and multifaceted legal mechanism of victim participation, conducted primarily through the lens of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The interpretation of victims’ participatory rights has been significantly diffuse and at times divergent, betraying a far from cohesive and consistent approach, and making the study of civil party participation a meaningful and instructive endeavour. Victim participation is still in its infancy in international criminal proceedings, and as such, the trials at the ECCC have appeared more as ‘experimenting laboratories’ than as processes guided by sound and well-crafted rules and procedures. Her research argues that whilst the apparent benefits of participation seem self-evident, and may lead, at least in theory, to the realisation of the aspiration of restorative justice for victims, the manner in which civil party participation has been crafted and interpreted in the trials before the ECCC has raised some important issues and questions regarding its role and impact with respect to the functionality of court proceedings, the rights of the accused, and the rights of victims themselves.

From her five years of research, Rudina concluded that:

·         The role of victims remains largely symbolic, and they have yet to fully realize their substantive rights.

·         It is imperative from the outset to develop a sound statutory and procedural foundation with clear and detailed rules and procedures.

·         There is a need to develop a realistic understanding of the potential shortcomings that civil party participation could have on vital objectives of fairness, functionality of court proceedings, and rights/interests of victims.

·         It is important to have a knowledgeable and supportive criminal justice community.

·         Greater participatory rights for victims depend on adequate funding and manpower.

·         A comprehensive and integrated approach is required, which courts are not best placed to achieve on their own.

Dr Rudina Jasini is an attorney and researcher specialising in international criminal law and human rights law. She is currently a Postdoctoral Global Fellow at New York University Law School Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and an ESRC GCRF Fellow at Oxford Law Faculty. Her doctoral research focused on the participation of victims of mass atrocities as civil parties in international criminal proceedings.

The seminar was chaired by Prof Sarah Williams, AHRCentre project director of Civil society and international criminal tribunals.