The report was prepared by Alex Batesmith, in association with the Lawyers, Conflict and Transition project. Alex is a Manchester-based barrister and mediator with twenty years’ practical legal experience in national and international human rights, humanitarian and criminal law, transitional justice, conflict resolution and rule of law issues. He spent five years as an international prosecutor for the United Nations in Kosovo and Cambodia.
Reflecting on both the Khmer Rouge legacy and the continuing challenges to democracy, the paper highlights some of the principal constraints and opportunities for lawyers in Cambodia – both inside and outside the courtroom.
Part I examines three transitional justice challenges: the lasting impact of trauma on the victims of the Khmer Rouge and the problem of witness support and protection; the limited capacity-building effect of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (the ECCC); and managing expectations of justice.
Part II sets out a number challenges related to lawyering in a limited democracy. These include: the persistent weak rule of law across the country; the lack of independence of the Cambodian Bar Association; intimidation of lawyers; restricted access to justice; and land grabbing. Individually, any one of these issues would present a significant challenge. Taken together, they present tremendous difficulties for legal professionals attempting to run their practice in a fair, robust and ethical fashion.