Michael Liu

China has achieved prominence on the world stage, but many Chinese still see international justice as a Western invention with no connection to their own values. Michael Liu wants to change that.

Liu is currently leading a team representing victims at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). They are the first lawyers from Mainland China to appear at international tribunals. Liu is also an international humanitarian law and international rights law lecturer at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phom Penh. But if it were not for Liu's determination and independent thinking, he might never have studied law at all.

“There is a popular saying in China: if you are good at Math, Physics and Chemistry, you needn't be afraid in any part of the world,” he says, explaining that his conservative parents expected him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a doctor.

However, he was “enlightened by the examples in the western developed countries” and chose to pursue a career in international law, as he was “fascinated by its multilayered impact, as a framework for international relations, with the capacity to bind states and nations.”

Help Fund Cambodian Tribunals, says Ban Ki-Moon


United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has appealed to the international community for financial assistance for the Cambodia tribunal which is charged with putting on trial those accused of the most serious crimes – including crimes against humanity during the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970’s. This comes as Cambodian staff at the tribunal were informed on Tuesday that there is not enough money to pay their salaries.

‘I want to use this opportunity to make a special appeal on behalf of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.  This Court has achieved important successes in prosecuting the brutal crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge regime.’ Ban  Ki-Moon told an audience of dignitaries who were in The Hague to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Peace Palace. ‘Yet today the Court is in crisis.  The voluntary contributions on which the Court depends have run dry.  Cambodian staff have not been paid since June.  The very survival of the Court is now in question.’ 

Amid the deepening funding crisis, at a court already bogged down by resignations and the ill health of its elderly defendants, Cambodian staff threatened to go on strike on 1 September unless they are paid their overdue wages.  Court spokesman Neth Pheaktra confirmed an internal announcement that “despite recent efforts from the government and U.N…and visits to five Asean countries, there is still no news on new pledges and the Cambodian side has a problem with cash flow.”

On August 18, U.N. special expert David Scheffer embarked on a six-day mission in the region to try and secure funding for the court. Tribunal observers have said the international community is cautious about funding the national side of the tribunal because of allegations of government interference and corruption.

The funding dispute puts into question the commitment of the Cambodian authorities, who have been accused of interfering behind the scenes to limit the scope of investigations.

 ‘Financial failure would be a tragedy for the people of Cambodia, who have waited so long for justice.  It would also be a severe blow to our shared commitment to international justice.’ Ban Ki-Moon said, ‘I call on the international community to come forward with the financing to continue this most important judicial process – not just for the weeks ahead, but to see all the cases through to their conclusion.’

Between 1.7 million and 2.2 million people -almost a quarter of Cambodia's population, died between 1975 and 1979 under the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge - many of them from overwork and torture.


You can read more about the cash challenges facing the tribunal here

You can read UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s statement here

To read about donations already made to the tribunal, click here

Story sources: United Nations and The Cambodia Daily.

Image : Photos of young Khmer Rouge fighters ( on display at the tuol sleng Museum, Phnom Penh)

Source: Adam Carr at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

UN Human Rights Probe Wants Access to North Korea


A United Nations investigation into human rights abuses in North Korea has called on the authorities in Pyongyang to allow them into the country to collect evidence on the ground.

Retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, the chairman of the three-member Commission of Inquiry, said Pyongyang had not directly replied to an invitation to participate in the commission hearings. The commission’s repeated requests for access included a formal written letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but it has had no direct response.

“Lacking direct access to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we are still able to gather numerous first-hand accounts from people who have managed to leave the country in recent years,” Mr. Kirby said in a news release.

He reiterated the benefits Pyongyang would gain by cooperating.

"An ounce of evidence is worth a pound of many, many insults," Mr. Kirby said. "Those who criticize the commission should provide the evidence."

Established by the UN Human Rights Council in March this year, the Commission is tasked with investigating the “systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” in the DPRK in order to ensure full accountability, in particular for violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.

The inquiry has wrapped up five days of disturbing hearings in the South Korean capital Seoul - mostly testimony from North Korean defectors.

The panel members move next to Japan to address the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea decades ago. The abductions remain a sharp issue in Japan and a point of tension between the two countries. Commission members also plan to collect witness testimony in Thailand, Britain and the United States.

North Korea, which strongly denies allegations of rights abuses, refused to recognise the UN body’s mission and barred it from visiting the country.

"The issue of the 'human rights' touted by the south Korean authorities…is a plot hatched by the U.S. and other hostile forces to justify their moves for hurting and stifling a sovereign state," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said.

Mr. Kirby stressed that the commission is conducting the inquiry with impartiality and with no preconceptions.

The Commission is scheduled to present an oral update to the UN Human Rights Council in September this year in Geneva, and to the UN General Assembly in New York in October. A final written report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council next March.

Kirby said he expected the UN to act on any recommendations the commission might make. Many North Korean defectors hope that the United Nations Security Council will ask the International Criminal Court to indict North Korean leaders for crimes against humanity.

“We hope their brave decision to testify will raise the international profile of the human rights situation in North Korea – not just with a general global audience, but also among the member states of the United Nations,” he added in a statement issued by the UN human rights Office.



Story Sources: United Nations and the New York Times.

Read more about this story here, here and here

Image: A North Korean soldier keeps watch over the demilitarized zone betwee both countries with his binoculars. 

Source: Thomas Bougher Flickr 

Bringing China into the Fold of International Justice


“The general public in China largely perceives the ICC as a remote institution, irrelevant to their daily lives,” says Michael Liu, founder and secretary general of the Chinese Initiative on International Criminal Justice.

“Few Chinese are aware of International Criminal Justice Day, which is now a global event. And even fewer appreciate its significance,” Liu adds.

But he says attitudes are shifting because of initiatives like the establishment of the China Network for the International Criminal Court, in July 2013. And he's doing what he can to change minds even more. He wants to show his country why the international justice system is beneficial and relevant to China.