NGOs as Transitional Justice Actors: Qualitative Insights into the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia’s Victim Participation Scheme

James Nakis1
1La Trobe University, VIC

Expansive participatory rights to victims granted by international criminal tribunals have activated local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to play a greater role in servicing victims’ access to trial proceedings. A particular illustration of NGO contribution is their practical assistance in the implementation of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia’s (ECCC) victim participation scheme. The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of NGOs in achieving transitional justice objectives, using Cambodian NGOs and their involvement with the ECCC, as a contextual basis. The paper describes research conducted in Cambodia in 2013, including semistructured interviews with stakeholders involved in the provision of victim assistance to the Court: NGO staff, ECCC personnel, and legal representatives. Based on an analysis of interview responses, I propose that local NGOs can be instrumental not only in assisting victims directly participating in trial proceedings, but also in developing non-judicial projects that respond to victims’ needs and expectations. To achieve these victim-oriented initiatives, I emphasise the importance of a collaborative partnership between local NGOs and the ECCC in the implementation of the Court’s victim participation scheme. It is intended that the findings will provide insights not only into improved practices for victims participating in international criminal trials, but also to recognise the capacity of local NGOs, when combined with international criminal justice efforts, to assist in achieving wider complementary transitional justice aims for victims and their communities.


James Nakis is a research student with a particular interest in transitional justice. He developed a passion for this field during his undergraduate studies at La Trobe University, where he completed his B.A. with honours in Legal Studies in 2011. After he graduated, James pursued further research by undertaking a Master’s thesis at La Trobe University. For the purposes of his thesis, he conducted field research in Cambodia. James aspires to conduct further research on a range of issues relating to international criminal tribunals and victims’ access to justice.


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