Cambodia: the lost executioner up for trial

Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 10:38 pm
Today is a big day for me. I've been obsessed with Cambodia for awhile, been there, laid my paws on all that I can read. One of the most gripping books was the Lost Executioner by Nic Dunlop, about the director of the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh where some 30,000 people died (this article lists 16,000...I've read varying numbers, usually at around double the amount). There are only seven survivors of the five or so years that the prison was in existence.
Today, the head of this prison is finally taken to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in PP to begin the proceedings. I feel restless. I cannot even imagine how survivors of attrocities - be it Holocaust during Nuremberg Tribunals, or Rwandans during ICTR, former Yugoslavs during ICTY- feel when it comes to this phase. Will be watching the KRT and hoping it delivers. Cambodians, especially in villages (my organization runs projects there) seem to be very engaged. They want to see the court, want to talk about what justice means to them, etc. We try to bring it from the KRT level to the local level...since KRT is failing at an efficient outreach to a lay population (which is totally to be expected from an official high level court as this one). Anyway, here's the article about the trial that will start the whole process off. Sigh.

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief appears at Cambodian genocide tribunal

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief appears at Cambodian genocide tribunal
The Associated PressPublished: July 30, 2007

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A notorious Khmer Rouge prison chief was taken to the
Cambodian genocide tribunal headquarters Tuesday to be questioned by judges
investigating crimes committed during the regime's rule in late 1970s, an
official said.

Kaing Khek Iev, who headed the former Khmer Rouge prison S-21 in Phnom Penh,
became the first suspect to be questioned by judges of the U.N.-backed
tribunal, said tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath.

The prison was a virtual slaughterhouse where suspected enemies of the
ultra-communists were brutally tortured before being taken out to killing
fields near the city.

Reach Sambath said Kaing Khek Iev, also known as Duch, was driven in a car
escorted by Cambodian government security forces and arrived at the tribunal
headquarters shortly after 6:10 a.m. (23:10 GMT).

He was taken from a military prison, where he has been detained since 1999.

Kaing Khek Iev, 62, is among five ex-Khmer Rouge leaders the tribunal's
prosecutors have submitted to the co-investigating judges for further
investigation, Reach Sambath said.

"They (the judges) need to do an initial interview with him, but he has not
been formally charged yet," Reach Sambath said.

Kaing Khek Iev was being held in an air-conditioned room but not in the
tribunal's detention facility, the spokesman said, adding that "it's up to
the judges to decide" on further action against the suspect.

Some 16,000 people were imprisoned at S-21, now the Tuol Sleng Genocide
Museum. Only about a dozen of them are thought to have survived when the
Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979.

Chum Mey, a prison survivor, said Tuesday he was delighted to hear Kaing
Khek Iev had been brought to the tribunal.

"I want to confront him to ask who gave him the orders to kill the Cambodian
people," Chum Mey, 77, said.

"I want to hear how he will answer before the court, or if he will just
blame everything on the ghosts of Pol Pot and Ta Mok," he said, referring to
the movement's notorious leader, the late Pol Pot, and his former military

Pol Pot died in 1998 and Ta Mok died in 2006.

Senior-level colleagues, Nuon Chea, the movement's chief ideologue; Ieng
Sary, the former foreign minister; and Khieu Samphan, the former head of
state, live freely in Cambodia but are in declining health.

Since his arrest by the government on May 10, 1999, Kaing Khek Iev was
detained on war crime charges.

It is unclear what charges he will face before the tribunal, set up jointly
by Cambodia and the United Nations to try to seek justice for crimes
committed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule.

Some 1.7 million people died from hunger, disease, overwork and execution as
a result of the radical policies of the communists.

On July 18, prosecutors submitted to the investigating judges the cases of
five former Khmer Rouge leaders they recommend stand trial. The prosecutors
did not reveal the identity of the five suspects, citing confidentiality

Copyright © 2007 the International Herald Tribune All rights reserved
Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 11:00 pm
Kaing Guek Eav aka Hang Pin aka Duch a few years back, as captured by Nic Dunlop (who is one of my top five heroes of all times. Nic is, not Duch.)

Nic found Duch after many years of trekking through Cambodia, carrying this photograph in his back pocket, asking villagers around for him. He recognized him when he finally met him in a remote area posing as a resettled peasant.

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Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 11:13 pm
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Reply Tue 31 Jul, 2007 11:30 pm
Here is a link to DCCam (Documentation Centre Cambodia) photos. I deliberately linked to the overview page and not to the Tuol Sleng prison photos (taken by a Vietnamese journalist as Vietnamese army came in in 1979 and pushed the Khmer Rouge out). There were 18 or so corpses left behind in a hurry by the fleeing khmer rouge. The photos are extremely graphic. Others are not, so you may still view others, just skil the S-21 (Tuol Sleng) folder if you're squeamish.

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Reply Wed 1 Aug, 2007 12:46 am
I am also happy this cruel and cowardly person was captured and will be held on trial. He's been undeservingly lucky so far.

But I can't help but to bring a personal anecdote.

In the late seventies, I moved to the Northwest of Mexico and did some left wing political activities.
An extremist group had been very active in the zone during the early seventies. They were nicknamed the Sickos. The type that went to a place and if the peasants did not support them, they'd burn the crops.
In those years, the Khmer Rouge atrocities were not well known, but their extremist policies were. A comrade told me:
"Man, it seems like if the Sickos took power in Cambodia".
I answered:
"Worse. It's like if the Sickos took power here and wanted us to go back to the Aztec Empire".
I thought I was exaggerating. I wasn't.

The Khmer Rouge is one of the most hallucinating nightmares our world has lived.
And it was delivered by local "intellectuals" who had studied in Europe.
As painter Francisco Goya said, centuries ago: "The dreams of reason breed monsters". The Khmer are among the worst immaginable monsters (they'd be inimmaginable if they hadn't existed for real).
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Reply Wed 1 Aug, 2007 01:15 pm
My colleagues in Cambodia started writing journals. They are full of stories connected to the Pol Pot regime, describe life in the villages, and so on. I decided to post them here, in their completely unedited form. The English is therefore rough sometimes, but it's worth a read. I am also immensely proud of them. They pull their sleeves up, chop wood, work in the ricefield, and only then, when they are accepted by the villagers, do they do 'business'. Also, note the copious amounts of rice wine drinking in the villages... I hope some will find these journals interesting.

May 23rd
Meeting the Villagers
We met with the villagers after lunch. There were about 30 people including the village chief, one PTEA staff member and the PTEA director. The meeting was facilitated by the PTEA staff. He said the purpose of the meeting was to introduce me and Adam and our purpose for being in the village: to learn the needs of the villagers and possibilities to respond to those needs. The PTEA director spoke about his interest to know more about the law, justice, history and the freedom to express and receive information about the KRT. He told everyone that Adam and I are the right people to go to for above mentioned topics. The village chief encouraged the villagers to open their hearts and home to me and Adam, provided any information as asked, and be cooperative. He also expressed his thanks to us for choosing his village to work with.

Adam and I introduced ourselves and the works that the ICfC is implementing around the world and Cambodia in particular. Then it was a space for questions. People asked Adam about the Cambodians in the US, how they celebrate weddings and if they live as a community or all over the place. They also asked if there are poor people in the United States.

Helping in the Fields
After the meeting Adam and I went to the field to help villagers to get rid of excess water from their field. Adam helped cut a fallen palm tree to make house and then we walked to a little shop to carry bananas home in the rain. We spoke with one woman who was a bit drunk. Her house was opposite our host family's house.

Notice: Some farmers eat cool rice (leftover rice from a dinner the day before). They had early lunch at around 10am, 10:30am. In the morning, farmers do sowing. That includes ploughing, getting rid of too much water from the nursery field and raking. In the afternoon, they dry their rice and guard cattle.

May 24th, 2007

Early in the morning, Adam and I went to the field to help farmers get unnecessary water out of their nursery field before meeting with PTEA. At the meeting the PTEA director signed the Memorandum of Understanding and we discussed the training that we would conduct for PTEA at their request.

Two trainings were identified: one for PTEA staff and its partner organizations and another for PTEA staff and the local authority. They express that they want to learn about peace, understanding conflict and communication skills among staff, partners and local authority. The proposed dates were set for September.

Lunch, Dinner and Discussion about the Khmer Rouge Period
Adam returned to Phnom Penh after the meeting and I went to my host family and had lunch with the host father and his relatives and friends who came to help with the kitchen that was under construction. I helped with the kitchen construction until the evening. I chitchatted with people while working. We took a break and drank rice wine and ate grilled fish and vegetables (bitter-Sdov). During the break we talked about the Khmer Rouge period. One construction man, Chea, said, "I lost my parents in the Pol Pot's regime." He told me that he volunteered to be soldier deliberately to revenge the Khmer Rouge and release his pain. He was a soldier for 6 years. An older woman, Nao, the mother of the host mother, said that she lost 5 children during the Pol Pot regime.

After we finished the construction work, a veterinarian came to join us for dinner with rice wine. Mr. Sak, the rice man also came to join us. We had a good time chatting. The construction men talked about their time together in Phnom Penh when they were working there. They also talked about the hospital in Svay Rieng province. The vet's wife recently died at that hospital. They said the nurses and doctors they met did not take good care of the patients. They only cared about money, without morality. The poor patients suffer both from the illnesses and the misbehaviors of the hospital staff. They also mentioned about the secondary and high schools are far away from the village. It takes more than one hour to ride a bike to the schools.
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Reply Wed 1 Aug, 2007 01:16 pm
May 25th, 2007

Early morning, I went out to the field to work with people. After I finished, I came home, took bath and walked to PTEA office. When I arrived at the porridge shop, I was stopped by four men sitting at table. I knew two of them, Mr. Sak (the rice man) and Mr. Chea (the soldier)! They asked me to join them in drinking rice wine. Oh dear! They let me go when they knew that I had to go to PTEA. I spent about two hours at PTEA talking to the staff, reading my notes and reading training reports. PTEA staff said more than 50% of the kids in the village did not show to class during sowing rice season. I saw that fewer than 10 students out of 20 were present at the pre-school. They told me that even the teachers are often absent. The kids stay back to help their parents preventing cows, pigs and chickens from getting out of their paddy fields and carrying drinking water and food.

PTEA staff said that the farmers are very pleased to have me and Adam staying and helping them work. In particular, they like that they can communicate with Adam. Adam's Khmer impresses the villagers who say that they like Adam because Adam speaks Khmer and is willing to work with them. I spoke to the PTEA staff about the excess of rice wine and they said they encountered the same problem when they first worked in a village. They said they ended up in drinking rice wine anywhere and anytime. They told me that I should accept the offers, even just to have a sip otherwise people will regard this as not respecting them and not receiving their friendship. They may feel that we are rude or that we look down on them.

Visiting Houses around the Village
After lunch I went to visit three houses. The first house was full of married women and children. They welcomed me in and continued telling stories about their husbands. One lady said the jealousy was too much and unreasonable. One lady with two kids said that she is actually running away from home. For me, it was amazing that they included me in their conversations. They said everything from surface to the depth of the issues without considering me a stranger to them. I felt that they sort of they put trust in me.

The second house was the house of Mr. Sak (the rice man). He and his wife were drying rice. They were very friendly. Their business is buying unhusked rice and selling rice. I talked with them for 20 minutes and then one lady walked up to me and invited me to her house. Her name was Tum and she is related to my host family. At her home, I met her husband (Rath) and her parents. Mr. Chea and his wife and two other men came in to join us. They came to help cut the coconut tree that was leaning against their house. We cut the coconut tree and the women made a papaya salad. One man went out to get rice wine. They were so friendly and they took care of me.

May 26th, 2007
After breakfast I went to see Mr. Sokni at his home for a while then I walked to the PTEA office. Afterwards I went into the village and visited 3 families. They welcomed me to their homes and asked me to with have lunch with them. One family cooked dry fish and another family cooked soups and bean sprout pickle. We all chatted while ate. The grandma said she is now living with his granddaughter. She said that her daughter died and her husband remarried another lady. She told me, "My husband was killed in 1978. Pol Pot groups killed him." She went on that, "My life is difficult as I am aging. My life would not be so difficult if my husband were alive," she said with sadness. The auntie whom I was eating with said she lost many nephews and nieces during the Pol Pot regime. They all were killed or starved to death. "During the Pol Pot regime, the Pol Pot group came to my neighbor's house and walked the father away threatening the wife and children not say even one word," she said. "I believe my husband was killed," she added. When I asked them about the news of the country and the KRT in particular they said they don't know anything about it. They said they don't have a radio to listen to, but that, "The current society is better even as I struggle to live. There is no torture, only difficulty in earning a living as I grow old". Both the auntie and the grandma encouraged me to eat as much as possible. For sure, I will see these families again.

In the afternoon, Mr. Chea came to my host family. I chatted with him for a while and then he said, "I lost my parents, my oldest and youngest sisters during the KR." I asked him if he knows about the KRT and he said that he does not know about it. I asked him if he wanted to know and he said that he wants to know about the KRT. He said that the top leaders should be in jail and asked if there is a law to execute criminals. He assumed there is only a sentence to death in jail which I said, "you are right". He did not know that Pol Pot and Ta Mok have died.

I asked him if he wanted to see the court building and meet the court staff. He said that he wanted to but he has no time because he is busy with his work. He said he knows about Toul Sleng but he does not know the Killing Fields because some of his friends visited Toul Sleng while they were doing construction work in Phnom Penh.

After talking to him, I walked out to the village again. A couple was chopping and polishing a palm tree to make a house. I stopped to chat with them and I also helped chopping the tree. They invited me to their house the next day. They pointed to the roof of their house so I would know where to go. I said good-bye to them and continued walking into the village. I stopped at one house. There were six men who had just finished drinking wine. I said hello to them and continued my walk to the end of the village. The sky was very dark and it was obvious that rain was about to fall.

One lady invited me to her house. I walked in and there was only a woman. She said that she has three children and that two are with her husband in Phnom Penh working and another son is with her. She showed me the photo of her oldest son who is now working in a garment factory in PP. Her youngest daughter is also working in a garment factory. Her middle son has had tetanus since he was a baby and his head was cut with nail. This son has to take medicine everyday to prevent him from moving around. She said that her husband does construction work. The sky was completely dark and ready to drop any second. I said goodbye to the woman and walked back home. As I got home, there were two patients waiting for the nurse to come (the host father is the nurse). They had fever and a headache and I gave some medicine to them. They took them and the felt better. When I was sitting one man came to take me to drink with him and his group. I tried to find an excuse for not joining them. Eventually, I had to go with him and stayed until my host father and mother joined me and took me home.

• When a lady delivers a birth, everybody else in the village comes to visit with their gift such as rice, wine, money. The family will have enough resource to cover the nursing fee.
• A wedding is celebrated for 3 days two nights. They often do the wedding reception at 9am.
• People in the village give their hands to one another.
• Both men and women drink wine.
• People with labor skills go to work in Phnom Penh on construction sites and in garment factories. Some of them come home for a short time to help with the rice cultivating.
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Reply Wed 1 Aug, 2007 01:23 pm
note: the "hate day" or "hatred day" is April 20th, commemorating the ascend of the Pol Pot regime. People still call it that even though it was changed to the "Day of Remembrance" or something along those lines [dk]
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Reply Wed 1 Aug, 2007 03:05 pm
Very interesting. Very sobering.
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Tai Chi
Reply Wed 1 Aug, 2007 03:25 pm
Thanks for posting the journal entries, dagmaraka.
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Reply Wed 1 Aug, 2007 03:29 pm
i know they're long, but hopefully people will read them.

that's part of my work, to bring such stories to people, so read people, read! it's good for you.

they indeed are sobering stories. this small country has most likely the highest concentration of human suffering per family. Absolutely everyone has close relatives that died during the khmer rouge times. everyone.
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Reply Wed 1 Aug, 2007 03:37 pm
To put some faces on this journal: these are my peeps: Vuth, Adam, and Vichhra:


And this is the "Hatred Day" ceremony, where some of the atrocities are re-enacted:


And here's Adam and Vichhra with some of the villagers in Battambang Province:

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Reply Wed 1 Aug, 2007 03:40 pm
I will just say that though the re-enactment itself may seem bizarre, it is actually very important. THere are less than 6 lines in Cambodian textbooks about the Khmer Rouge regime and children don't believe their own parents that such a thing could have happened. There's no way to hear about it. learn about it, and so many, if not most, of the people live with this trauma with no outlet. When we go to these villages, it is usually the first time that most of them speak about it since it happened. Powerfull stuff.
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Reply Thu 2 Aug, 2007 05:05 pm
Khmer Rouge leader charged with crimes against humanity
Times Online http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2174714.ece
Hannah Strange

A former Khmer Rouge prison chief who oversaw the torture and killings of 17,000 people was charged with crimes against humanity by Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal today, in the most decisive step yet towards bringing those responsible for the country's genocide to justice.

Duch, whose real name is Kang Kek Ieu, was transferred into custody of the tribunal, becoming the first Khmer Rouge figure to be charged in a long-stalled judicial process. He had been held at a military prison since his arrest in 1999, some 20 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

Tribunal judges spent several hours interviewing Duch before formally filing charges against him.

"The co-investigating judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia have charged Kang Kek Ieu, alias Duch, for crimes against humanity and have placed him in provisional detention," they said in a statement.

The first inmate at the tribunal's newly-built detention centre, Duch is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders under investigation by the tribunal. However many, including Brother Number One Pol Pot, will never face justice, having died before the tribunal was established.

As chief of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh - known to the Khmer Rouge as S21 - Duch presided over the incarceration, torture and finally killings of an estimated 17,000 so-called enemies of the Pol Pot regime. Of the inmates - including women, children, and babies born in the prison - there were only eight known survivors, who later recounted their sickening ordeals.

One, Cambodian artist Vann Nath, who has depicted his time in Tuol Sleng in numerous paintings, said today he was reluctant to confront his former tormentor. "I don't want to confront him unless the tribunal wants me to do so," he said.

Many of S21's prisoners were former Khmer Rouge members and their families whose loyalties came under suspicion from an increasingly paranoid leadership. After being subjected to months of interrogation and brutality - survivors tell of being electrocuted, beaten, burnt with searing metal and forced to eat human faeces - those who had not died from the abuses were taken to the Choeung Ek Extermination Centre on the outskirts of the city, now known as the Killing Fields. There they were beaten to death with iron bars and machetes - bullets were deemed too precious for such purposes - before being thrown into mass graves. One of the execution orders signed by Duch was for 17 children who failed to inform the party of their parents' alleged treachery.

Blood still stains the floors at the prison - chillingly, a former high school, where the gym bars in the courtyard were turned into gallows. Now the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, instruments of torture and victims' skulls are displayed alongside photographs of every prisoner admitted. Extensive records kept by Duch and other staff detail the prisoners' experiences, while photographs taken by the Vietnamese on capturing the capital city show the prison as it was left by fleeing S21 guards, with mutilated bodies still chained to rusting metal bedframes.

But Duch's lawyer, Kar Savuth, said the prison chief - who taught mathematics before becoming a communist revolutionary in the late 1960s - was not guilty of any crimes and was only following "verbal orders from the top."

"He had no rights to arrest or kill anyone," Kar Savuth said.

An estimated two million people died during the four years of Khmer Rouge rule, from starvation, overwork or execution. Upon seizing power in 1975, the ultra-communists emptied Phnom Penh and other urban centres, forcing their populations into rural labour camps. The regime abolished religion, currency and schools, turning Cambodia back to "Year Zero" in its bid to create an agrarian utopia. Instead, it perpetrated what is now regarded as one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

Its crimes were part of a "common criminal plan constituting a systematic and unlawful denial of basic rights," prosecutors said earlier this month after submitting their cases for investigation.

Attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice have been frustrated by years of wrangling between Cambodian authorities and the United Nations over the trial process. It was only in 2003 that a tribunal plan was finally agreed and set in motion, by which time many of the accused, including Pol Pot, had died. The process now underway is widely regarded as the last opportunity to secure justice for the Cambodian people.

While the names of all those under investigation have not been made public, prosecutors are reportedly also seeking charges of genocide and other crimes against former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, as well as Pol Pot's deputy Nuon Chea and foreign minister Ieng Sary.

Khieu Samphan said today he was not alarmed by Duch's summons, saying his own possible appearance at the tribunal "won't be a problem at all."

"There is no reason to arrest me. I will go to the tribunal if they ask me to," he said from his home in northwestern Cambodia.

"I have my lawyer and am prepared," he added.

As for Duch, his present feelings on the tribunal and his alleged crimes are unknown. But in a transcript of a government interview in 1999, he claimed he was not a "cruel man" and was instead "an individual with gentle heart caring for justice ... since childhood."
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Reply Thu 2 Aug, 2007 05:34 pm
Bookmarking - very exciting! I thought the duch was the guy in the first picture and I thought, "But, he looks so nice!"
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Reply Thu 2 Aug, 2007 10:36 pm
First picture on the first page or second page? He indeed is in the first picture on the first page.

Here's a decent article from Christian Science Monitor (especially because it mentions Nic Dunlop whom I want to marry and bear his children). Emphasis mine:

from the August 02, 2007 edition -

Cambodia's first step toward justice for Khmer Rouge

Kaing Guek Eav, who led the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, was
indicted Tuesday.
By Erika Kinetz | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Just after dawn Tuesday, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch,
gathered his clothes from the military prison cell he has lived in for the
last eight years and walked, silent and expressionless, to a waiting car.

Duch is the only man facing charges for the crimes committed by the
Khmer Rouge, a radical communist regime that oversaw the deaths of some 1.7 million people - roughly one quarter of the population - when it ruled Cambodia in the late 1970s.

Experts say Duch could be a key witness in the long-delayed efforts to
bring justice to the people of Cambodia, and in a Wednesday statement from the court Duch said he "is ready to reveal the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge."

For Cambodians, Duch's journey to the international criminal court
represents the culmination of a decades-long wait for justice followed by
more than a year of legal wrangling between the international community and the Cambodian judicial system.

Duch's indictment is surely a sign of progress for the troubled court,
but many still worry that the justice handed down will be too late and too
narrow to permeate the cover of impunity and secrecy that surrounds
Cambodia's Khmer Rouge past. Duch's arrest and detention surprised no one, and some argue that the real tests of this court, which unlike any other international criminal court, operates under national control, are still to come.

"We hope that charging Duch is the start of real progress on the
trials," Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, wrote by email
from London. "But it was impossible not to charge him, as he was already in custody and has confessed to his crimes in media interviews. The first real test is whether Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, and Ieng Thirith are soon charged and arrested," said Mr. Adams, referring to other Khmer Rouge leaders who have been implicated in human rights crimes.

Adams added that real justice - and a true justification of the
court's $56 million price tag - means going after more than just five
people, and making decisions that are clearly based on evidence, not

Tribunal judges on Tuesday charged Duch with crimes against humanity for his role as the director of the notorious S21 prison, where some 14,000 people are thought to have been tortured before being sent to their deaths in the killing fields outside Phnom Penh.

To some extent, the tribunal is at long last bringing the judicial
record into line with the historical one. Duch is the first of five suspects
identified by tribunal prosecutors earlier this month to be publicly named,
but the local press was quick to name the other historical headliners of the
failed revolution as top candidates for prosecution.

In addition to Duch, they fingered Nuon Chea, the movement's chief
ideologue and second in command to the late Pol Pot; Khieu Samphan, the
regime's head of state; Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge foreign minister; and his wife, Ieng Thirith, who served as minister of social affairs.

All but Duch still live with impunity in Cambodia.

The tribunal announced Wednesday that Duch had chosen his defense
team: Kar Savuth, a Cambodian who has been his lawyer for eight years and has also represented Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen; and François Roux, a French attorney who was part of the defense team for Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent now serving a life sentence for his involvement with the 9/11 terror attacks.

Duch has already served eight years without trial, which promises to be a thorny legal issue for the court to resolve. Yet Duch's attorney argues that his client's long detention meets
neither Cambodian nor international standards of justice and has asked that he be released on bail.
The judges decided to detain him for up to a year anyway, on the grounds that the crimes he's accused of are so grievous that releasing him might disrupt Cambodia's "fragile" public order and threaten his personal safety. It was not immediately clear whether Duch would choose to appeal his yearlong detention under the authority of the court, called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Duch's personal safety has been a question ever since photojournalist
Nic Dunlop unmasked him in 1999. A Christian convert, Duch had been living in rural Cambodia under a pseudonym.

A vital link for the Khmer Rouge

Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent archive that has supplied reams of historical evidence to the tribunal, said that as the commander of a special state prison for Khmer Rouge members suspected of treason, Duch was a vital link between the cadres on the ground and the regime's top leadership.

"He is the middle person, the joint," Mr. Youk said. And that, he
added, could be dangerous.

In a 1999 interview with the Far Eastern Economic Review, Duch - and
the UN - expressed concerns for his safety. At that point, Duch brashly
implicated Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ta Mok - a notoriously brutal Khmer Rouge commander who died last year - and Son Sen, the Khmer Rouge defense minister, who was executed in 1997, in the carnage of those years.

Mr. Dunlop, who wrote about his discovery of Duch in "The Lost
Executioner," said he worried that Duch might distance himself from his past and try to hide behind claims that he was just following orders once he takes the stand.
"When [Duch] spoke in 1999, he accepted his own role in the killings
and began to establish a chain of command of how orders were given and
carried out and by who. His testimony should be a pivotal moment if he does speak the truth on the stand and so it could be very damaging," Dunlop wrote in an email.

An even longer wait

Even as the judicial process moves forward, other parts of the court
are lagging. Victims still eagerly circle outside the tribunal, unsure how
to get involved. A promised victim's unit, which would oversee victims'
claims, has yet to take shape. Witness protection remains a key concern for court staffers.
Charges of corruption at the highest levels of the court have yet to be publicly investigated, and the Cambodian side of the tribunal is facing an imminent budgetary crisis. Fundraising will have to begin soon if the court is to function as planned.

Meanwhile, the United States is still withholding direct funding from
the tribunal.
Piper Campbell, the chargé d'affairs at the US Embassy in
Phnom Penh, said charging Duch was a "welcome step forward." But she added: "The tribunal's proceedings, which under the civil law system are still at a stage where most of the work is conducted confidentially, have not yet reached a point" where the Department of State can assess whether they meet international standards.

All this adds to the skepticism among Cambodians and international
observers. For some of Duch's alleged victims - of whom only a handful
survived - justice still seems elusive at best.

Painter Vann Nath, one of a handful of survivors of S21, says it's
still too early to celebrate. "I'm not happy yet," he says. "I'm waiting to
see the result. It has already been too long."

www.csmonitor.com | Copyright © 2007 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.
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Reply Thu 2 Aug, 2007 10:44 pm
And an overview from the Wall Street Journal:

WSJA(8/3) Editorial: Trying Comrade Duch

More than 30 years after the killing fields of Cambodia, a United
Nations-backed tribunal this week indicted one of the Khmer Rouge's top
officials. His trial is likely to commence early next year. Justice delayed
is justice nonetheless.

In many ways, it's a miracle the tribunal exists at all. Since cementing
his power in a bloody 1997 coup, the autocratic government of Prime Minister Hun Sen -- populated by former Khmer Rouge officials -- had little to gain from confronting history.
China, whose own genocidal leader, Mao Zedong, had backed the genocide by its fellow Communists, blocked the tribunal at every turn at the U.N. Only threats to curtail Cambodia's all-important foreign aid helped push Phnom Penh to the table.

The tribunal is by no means a perfect body. Cambodian judges will be mixed in with foreign jurists, raising questions about the court's neutrality. Sofar, only five defendants have been put to the court for consideration, and it's unclear whether all will be brought to trial, as the tribunal has
already eaten up a year and a half of its three-year mandate. Even if they
are all successfully tried and convicted, the court can, at most, sentence
defendants to life in jail, which is the equivalent of a wrist slap for men
who are pushing 80.

For most Khmer Rouge killers, justice will never be served. Pol Pot died
in 1998; a former military chief, Ta Mok, also known as "the butcher," died
last year. Even today, men like Ieng Sary, the former Foreign Minister, and
Khieu Samphan, a former head of state, walk free in the streets, not to
mention the scores of second- and third-tier militants who will likely never
see the inside of a courtroom. No one associated closely with Hun Sen and
his closest allies will likely be questioned.

In the end, however, all of this may matter less than the fact that the
tribunal is happening at all. In the annals of modern history, few regimes,
if any, match the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror. Pol Pot's Democratic
Kampuchea killed around one-third of the citizenry in a little over three

In the three ensuing decades, Cambodians have had little opportunity to
reflect upon that collective trauma. That's not to say that nothing has been
unearthed. The killing fields are now open to the public, museums display
retrospectives, and several detailed history books in the local Khmer
language have been published. But until now, there have been no public
prosecutions of the officials who perpetrated these crimes.

Trying the first defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, known as "Comrade Duch," is no small feat. Comrade Duch was one of the regime's top executioners. His S-21 prison was a playground of hell, where victims were beaten, scored, strung up, stung with scorpions and eventually, killed. Of S-21's 20,000 prisoners, only seven survived.

Like many of today's terrorists, Comrade Duch was a well-educated man. In the lycee, he excelled in his coursework, and idealized the left's vision of
a classless society. It took him only a year to finish his baccalaureate,
and he soon moved on to study for a teaching certificate. Comrade Duch isn't a man to pity, nor to pardon. He knew exactly what he was doing. The
question now is if he will implicate others in the regime, or shed light on
who was responsible for what, exactly.

We can't predict how the tribunal will conduct its business. But it's
significant that the hearings will be open to the public and covered in the
country's press. Like the international tribunals set up after the ethnic
cleansing in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, putting Khmer Rouge killers on trial will help Cambodians better understand what happened. Only when history is revealed can a nation truly heal.
0 Replies
Reply Fri 3 Aug, 2007 01:32 pm
A good article about Duch himself and how Nic Dunlop tracked him down:

Sydney Morning Herald
Torturer runs out of time

August 4, 2007

After years under assumed names, Comrade Duch is facing justice, writes Connie Levett.
Rare survivor ... Vann Nath Main holds one of his paintings of a prisoner at the Tuol Sleng interrogation centre.

Rare survivor ... Vann Nath Main holds one of his paintings of a prisoner at the Tuol Sleng interrogation centre.
Photo: Andrew Meares

HE INTRODUCED himself as Hang Pin, just another Cambodian camp worker in a white T-shirt emblazoned with the American Refugee Committee logo, helping out on the Thai-Cambodian border.

He didn't look like a monster, but a British photographer, Nic Dunlop, recognised him immediately as Comrade Duch, head of the notorious Khmer Rouge Security Prison 21 (S-21), where 17,000 people were interrogated, tortured and finally sent for execution. Duch meticulously documented his work, leaving behind a haunting gallery of frightened and defiant faces - now the Tuol Sleng museum.

This week, 28 years after the regime fell, Hang Pin - whose real name is Kang Kek Ieu but who was known as Comrade Duch - now 64, became the first man charged in relation to the Cambodian genocide. After years of wrangling over funding, and the independence of the genocide tribunal, the charge has raised hopes among the scarred population that justice may yet be done.

Dr Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said that although the world knew who the prime suspects were, it was "very significant for Cambodia to have a judicial process which responded to the call for justice".

The centre has, for 10 years, been chronicling the genocide that killed more than 1.7 million people between 1975 and 1979. "Every one of us lost at least one family member," Dr Chhang said, describing the genocide trials as a real foundation to bring closure so people could go on with their lives.

Vann Nath, one of only seven survivors of S-21, is keen to testify. "If they don't bring them to court, [the Khmer Rouge] won't know what they did was wrong. We need them to be responsible for what they did. If we don't do it, the young generation will not know what is wrong and what is right," he told the Herald this year. Vann Nath survived because Duch liked his painting style, setting him to work creating portraits of Brother No. 1, Pol Pot.

Pol Pot, who led the murderous regime, died in 1998, never having to account for his actions. Brother No. 3, Ta Mok, the military commander, died last year.

Twenty years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, Duch must have felt quite comfortable with his new identity. In Samlaut village in 1999, "Hang Pin" was friendly and off guard - telling Dunlop he had been a mathematics teacher and fled Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge took power. In fact, he fled the capital in 1979 and did not leave the party until 1992. He then converted to Christianity and worked, under assumed names, for the United Nations and other aid bodies, in the refugee camps.

What he could not know was that Dunlop had made it a personal mission to find him. Working as a freelance photographer in Cambodia, he carried Duch's photo in his pocket and showed it to villagers wherever he went, asking, "Have you seen this man?" When he saw Hang Pin, he knew immediately.

"They thought I was mad," said Dunlop, who is now based in Bangkok. He did not confront Duch on the first day, discreetly taking photos before returning with another journalist a few weeks later to challenge him as to his identity. Duch did not deny it.

Duch rationalised his actions, saying he was just following orders and would have been killed himself had he not.

"It's true he was following orders but in terms of being able to influence decisions that were made, he also has a responsibility," Dunlop said.

"A key part of his case in this tribunal is whether he remains true to what he told me in 1999, which is 'Yes, I am responsible but so are these other people. I did follow the orders.' If he confesses to that it should be an incredible testimony."

In 1999 Duch told Dunlop that Pol Pot; Brother No. 2, Nuon Chea; and Ta Mok all knew what was going on inside S-21. Khieu Samphan, the chief ideologue, was also aware but less so.

The tribunal has indicated it will charge another four as-yet-unnamed Khmer Rouge leaders. Duch's testimony could assist in their prosecution.

Dr Chhang describes him as "a join between the lower and higher levels of the regime. He was chief of a prison, one of 189 across the country but his prison was at a level where most of the prisoners were officials of the Khmer Rouge itself, who had become enemies who needed to be purged."

Duch's trial is expected to begin early next year. Dunlop, who wrote about his search for Duch in The Lost Executioner, is not sure if he will attend.

"It seemed inconceivable to me growing up in the West that things like this could occur. [What happened in] Cambodia represented everything evil in the world," he said.

In trying to comprehend how it could happen, he realised it is important to understand the perpetrators as much as it is to empathise with victims.

"At the end, these monsters so-called are people, human beings. There was nothing to indicate [Duch] was anything other than ordinary. The thing is we can relate to these people, they are not different to us."
0 Replies
Reply Fri 3 Aug, 2007 02:17 pm
Important work, kudos to those who are doing it.

That re-enactment picture... ooof...
Reply Fri 3 Aug, 2007 07:37 pm
i'm glad you're reading along. even if it's just a handful of people.
0 Replies

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