In This Review

Extraordinary Justice: Law, Politics, and the Khmer Rouge Tribunals
Extraordinary Justice: Law, Politics, and the Khmer Rouge Tribunals
By Craig Etcheson
Columbia University Press, 2019, 488 pp

Etcheson served for six years as chief of investigations in the mixed international and Cambodian tribunal that was set up to try the leaders of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. He recounts in dispiriting detail the maneuvers by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen first to delay the tribunal’s creation and then to undermine its effectiveness. Negotiations over the formation and operation of the tribunal did not even start until 1997—18 years after the defeat of the Khmer Rouge. Nine more years were spent negotiating the tribunal’s structure and getting it funded, set up, and staffed. The court then got bogged down in legal and procedural debates between the international and the Cambodian prosecutors and judges. The Cambodian side tried to prevent the court from going after anyone with influence in or connections to the Hun Sen government. To add to the mess, zealous defense lawyers recruited from overseas did their best to stymie the few active prosecutions. Despite ample funding from foreign donors, in 14 years of operation, the tribunal has convicted only three people and opened investigations into just four others.