The instrumentalities that enable mass atrocities and genocide rely on complex dramas that thrive on deceit, pathological appetites, and contempt for targeted ethnicities and belief systems. They inspire compulsive secrecy, sociopolitical allegiance, heightened suspicion and fear in subordinates, and intense loyalty among the co-conspirators. They inspire a culture of indifference to institutionalized torture, abuse and killing. Orchestrated slaughter on a mass scale entails the conscription of innumerable adjuncts charged with performing the actual crimes. Efforts to bring to justice all involved in the lengthy chain of perpetrators inevitably fail because their numbers exceed the practical capacity and will of those committed to do so. Accountability mechanisms focus on arresting and prosecuting the genocidal architects with the result that many inferior criminals are not held to account, prompting questions of how effectively justice was served. Domestic and international research experts will explore these issues and propose new prevention and accountability mechanisms to better support the effective rule of law. Drawing on the vast archives of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, multi-disciplinary scholars will engage in diverse research projects designed to impact policy making at the national, regional, and international levels.
The core objectives of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) are memory and justice, and documentation is a crucial component. Documentation helps hold leaders accountable for their decisions while ensuring that the past is not forgotten. It is a resource for research and understanding and a starting point for education, justice, and national reconciliation. It is therefore a necessary foundation for a just society and lasting peace. Documenting and disseminating records of past atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime has been the core activity of DC-Cam since 1995. Approximately one million documents have been collected from a multitude of sources, both inside and outside of Cambodia. These documents include biographies of former Khmer Rouge members and cadres, the minutes of Central and Standing Committee meetings, daily reports, telegrams, and victim confessions. In addition, there are Khmer Rouge notebooks, songs, and publications as well as crime-site photographs, interview transcripts, documentary films, physical materials, diaries, maps, and other relevant materials.
These documents serve to advance the core values of the “right to the truth” and “right to justice,” which form the normative backbone of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT). Over 500,000 pages of DC-Cam documents have been provided to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), including the Office of the Co-Prosecutors, the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, the Defense Support Section and Defense teams, Civil Party lawyers, and the Office of Public Affairs.
These documents provide crucial evidence in the prosecution of senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge.
In collaboration with Yale University and New South Wales University, DC-Cam uses four extensive databases to manage and catalogue its documents for the purpose of wide dissemination, both locally and abroad. The databases include biographic, bibliographic, photographic and geographic clusters and are equipped with an online search engine. In addition, DC-Cam has established an access list of documents, accompanied by a user-friendly search engine, which allows interested members of the public to access all of the documents in DC-Cam’s archives more broadly and effectively.
To provide public online access to the entirety of DC-Cam documentation, DC-Cam is digitizing its documents and uploading them onto the Internet. DC-Cam is also planning the development of an optical recognition system that would allow for identification of certain Khmer characters and symbols in the original documents. This would facilitate more convenient and efficient research and thus contribute to a better understanding of Khmer Rouge history. In addition, DC-Cam intends to collect documents from a variety of newly opened communist archives. Because human rights, democracy and reconciliation depend on a clear picture of the past, and documentation is the cornerstone to historical clarity, DC-Cam is committed to the mission of building its archive and making it publicly accessible and available for future generations
Public Access to Archives
DC-Cam is the world’s largest repository of printed documents and other original documentary materials relating to the DK regime. The materials in our archives are consequently of the utmost historical interest and may serve as important evidentiary materials in any accountability process relating to the DK regime. To disseminate the truth about the DK period and to promote lawful accountability and national reconciliation, it is imperative that our materials be made available to historians, judicial officials, and other interested members of the public. However, it is equally important for our materials to be protected from physical decay, corruption, and other security hazards.
We have thus formulated procedures for managing access to our archives both before and during the prospective trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders. They cover authorization for those seeking access to our documents, photocopying, viewing originals, and document custody, care, and return. The procedures have been submitted to the Royal Government and the United Nations. In addition, we have developed a set of regulations for those wishing to view documents in our Public Information Room.