May 6, 2009, Professor David Cohen and Ms. Michelle Staggs Kelsall

(Click to enlarge) Professor David Cohen and Ms. Michelle Staggs Kelsall discuss the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

International Justice in Cambodia: Prospects and Challenges for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal


(Washington D.C.) May 6– Thirty years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, the United Nations-assisted Cambodian Extraordinary Chambers has finally begun prosecuting senior leaders and those most responsible for the atrocities committed between 1975 and 1979. The United States played a pivotal role in establishing the structure of the tribunal to ensure it would comply with international fair trial standards, yet recent allegations of corruption could undermine the Court as a flagship international justice institution within Asia, as well as threaten its ability to secure a legitimate place in Cambodia’s history. Professor David Cohen and Ms. Michelle Staggs Kelsall discussed the prospects and challenges for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, drawing on their combined experience in monitoring trials and documenting abuses in East Timor, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Cambodia. They described recent programs targeting Cambodia’s victims through grass roots community outreach, and placed the trials within the broader context of engagement with Cambodia and international justice developments.


For more information about the East-West Center’s Asian International Justice Initiative, please click here .


Professor David Cohen is the director of the U.C. Berkeley War Crimes Studies Center, where he is also the Sidney and Margaret Ancker Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, and director of the East-West Center’s Asian International Justice Initiative, where he is also a senior fellow in international law. Professor Cohen has monitored and reported extensively on the East Timor trials before the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in Dili and the Ad Hoc Human Rights Court in Jakarta. He was also an independent expert adviser to Indonesia and East Timor for the Commission for Truth and Friendship. He currently directs trial monitoring projects at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as well as an international project on the WWII war crimes trials in Asia, the Pacific, and Europe. He is writing books on a comparative study of international criminal hybrid tribunals in East Timor, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and Kosovo, and on war crimes from WWII to today.


Michelle Staggs Kelsall is the deputy director of the East-West Center’s Asian International Justice Initiative, and is based full time in Phnom Penh. Since 2004, she has worked with Professor Cohen on monitoring, legal training, and outreach programs in both Sierra Leone and Cambodia. As deputy director, she is assisting Professor Cohen to oversee all of the Initiative’s programs in Southeast Asia. She also oversees the daily operations of the Initiative’s trial monitoring and outreach program in Cambodia. She is a qualified Australian lawyer and has a Masters Degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science (Public International Law). She has written and peer-reviewed for the International Journal of Transitional Justice , the International Criminal Law Review , and International Affairs , and is currently on the legal officer roster for the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.