This article discusses the underpinnings of impunity and justice in Cambodia as the former Khmer Rouge leaders face trial in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The extent to which the ECCC achieves its goal can only be assessed by understanding the concept of impunity from a Cambodian cultural perspective. In this ethnographic study, the cultural construction of justice is thus examined. The ECCC defendants and those who commit violence today seem to use a similar cultural framework to explain their crimes and expiate them from accountability. Any discussion of accountability, which is the Janus-face of impunity – whether at the ECCC trials or in the public arena today – will show how perpetrators conform to certain embedded Cambodian beliefs while failing to conform to others. The findings add to our understanding of the cultural footprint of evil and impunity and have implications for attempts to respond to the call for a ‘bespoke’ form of transitional justice and for a culturally responsive approach to health and human rights.
- Extraordinary chambers in the courts of Cambodia
- Theravada buddhism
- Transitional justice