Transitional justice in Cambodia - Can NGOs keep their promise? : a critical assessment of heterogeneous civil society contributions towards a victim-centred approach to dealing with the past
In addition to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), local NGOs with both punitive and restorative approaches to TJ have considerably added to the process of dealing with the past. After presenting the ECCC and local NGOs as actors in the Cambodian case, the contributions of NGOs are first outlined along Backer’s conceptualisation of civil society functions in TJ processes, and later assessed against Robin’s concept of victim-centredness. It is argued that NGOs have provided significant contributions in terms of e.g. broadening and localising the TJ process. Furthermore, measures in both the punitive and restorative field are crucial for victims due to a complex understanding of justice. However, while markedly in line with the local population’s understanding of central concepts in TJ, can NGO activities be considered as responding to victims’ explicit needs and preferences rather than acting according to their own or rather externally influenced agendas, if a strong focus is placed on reconciliation and symbolic reparations, which rank low in victims’ hierarchies of needs? Furthermore, can empowerment be ensured where participation of victims in the project design stage is essentially limited? This thesis contends that rather than corresponding to a victim-centred approach, based on needs as defined by victims themselves and involving them at all stages of the project cycle, NGO activities in Cambodia should be considered as focusing on the victims in their implementation phase only.