All too often cross-border human trafficking prosecutions in Cambodia are stalled or derailed because victims are unwilling or unable to participate in the process. This lack of willingness or ability may be due to security concerns, a desire to return home to focus on recovery and rehabilitation, or other immediate needs such as earning a living. Increased use of remote witness testimony provides a solution that enables these victims to participate in the judicial process in Cambodia or elsewhere while simultaneously protecting their identity and allowing them to return home.
Remote witness testimony, also known as videolink or video-conferencing testimony, is real-time testimony of a witness through a closed-circuit camera that permits both contemporaneous sounds and images of people to appear on a screen in the courtroom. The witness does not have to be physically present in the courtroom, but rather, may be in an adjourning room, nearby location, or another country. The video connection can take the form of a one-way transmission through which the remote witness could be seen or heard by others in the courtroom but cannot see or hear them.1 Alternatively, it could be through a twoway transmission where the remote witness can be seen or heard by those in the courtroom and can see or hear them.2 In cases where it is necessary to guarantee the anonymity of witnesses, the videoconferencing technology can be combined with other digital techniques that allow for the distortion of the witness’ image or voice.3
This paper makes the case for increased use of remote witness testimony in human trafficking cases involving Cambodian victims. In doing so, we will explain the benefits and challenges of this type of testimony, examine the relevant laws in Cambodia that neither explicitly prohibit nor permit this testimony, and briefly compare the legal frameworks in other ASEAN countries which use it. Although the technology for remote witness testimony may not yet be available in all provincial courts in Cambodia, where it is available (e.g. Phnom Penh), it provides a viable, safe, and legal alternative for victims of human trafficking to participate in the case. It alleviates the need for victims to choose between their security, desire to return home, and right to seek justice.
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