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Perceptions and Attitudes towards the ECCC

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After just one trial, it is difficult to determine the ECCC’s achievements or know how it will affect Cambodians in the long term.[1] At the same time it is possible to gauge changes, if any, in perceptions and attitudes over the two-year period between the two surveys. This section examines Cambodians’ perceptions both of the Court and its ability to influence long-term goals such as forgiveness and establishing a historical record.

General Perception of the ECCC

Over the 2008 to 2010 period, perceptions of the ECCC remained positive and, on certain indicators, have become more favorable toward the Court. Regardless of whether the respondents lived under the Khmer Rouge regime or not, a large majority of people (83%) believed the ECCC should be involved in responding to what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Further, respondents’ views of the neutrality and fairness of the ECCC has significantly improved. In 2010, 75% of adults believed the Court to be neutral, compared to 67% in 2008. Those who did not believe the Court to be neutral generally associated the lack of neutrality with the Court’s perceived connection to the Cambodian government (31%) and/or the fact that judges are working for the government (23%). Other explanations included a perception of corruption within the ECCC (14%), disappointment with the ECCC’s lengthy judicial process (14%), and disappointment with the Duch’s sentence (10%).

Figure 6: Perception of the ECCC

Figure 6 - Perception of the ECCC

Perceptions of the Duch Trial

As some of the responses above indicate, perceptions of the Court are associated in part with perceptions of the Duch trial, the first and only trial heard by the ECCC at the time of the interviews. A series of questions were asked specifically about that trial.

As mentioned above, just 54% of respondents were able to identify Duch as the person who was on trial last year at the ECCC, and only one in ten had been able to state his sentence correctly. Those knowledge-oriented questions were followed by a series of questions on perceptions of the trial or the trial proceedings. Respondents were informed that Duch would probably spend 18 to 19 years in prison according to the current verdict. Interviewers then asked for their opinion about this sentence. The results suggest that about 46% of adults in Cambodia believed that Duch should spend more time in prison, 39% believed the current time was adequate, and 10% thought that Duch should spend less time. Another 5% did not know enough about the case to provide an opinion.

Respondents’ overall perception of Duch’s trial was positive; however, the data suggest that people were not pleased with some aspects of the trial. During the development of the research instrument, we had preliminary discussions with various people, including those who participated as Civil Parties in the Duch trial. Based on this preliminary assessment we developed several statements surrounding the Duch Trial and asked the respondents to tell us whether they “strongly agree,” “agree,” “are neutral,” “disagree,” “strongly disagree,” or “have no opinion.” To facilitate the presentation of results, “agree” and “strongly agree” have been merged together, as well as “disagree” and “strongly disagree.”

The responses reveal that the majority of people agreed or strongly agreed that the “Duch Trial was conducted fairly” and that the “Court was right to find Duch guilty for what he did at S21” (69% and 77%, respectively). There was also a strong sentiment that the “Court gave too much time to Duch to explain himself” and that “victims did not have enough time to tell their story (50% and 56%, respectively). Over one-quarter of the respondents did not have an opinion. This may be because they did not know, or did not know enough, about the Duch Trial and/or that they do not want to provide a response.


Figure 7: Perception of Duch’s Trial

Figure 7 - Perception of Duch’s Trial


Figure 8: Perception of Duch’s Trial (2)

Figure 8 - Perception of Duch’s Trial (2)


[1] Patrick Vinck and Phuong Pham.  “Outreach Evaluation: The International Criminal Court in the Central African Republic.” International Journal of Transitional Justice (2010) doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijq014