Duch Trials Started, Hope for Justice is on the Way

Posted by khmernews on April 9, 2009

By Oeung Jeudy,
CHRAC Program Officer
31 March 2009

Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, the former chief of S-21 is now facing the trials before the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), popularly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The ECCC was created under the Agreement made between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations to prosecute the senior leaders and the most responsible for the crimes committed during the period of the Democratic Kampuchea under the leadership of Pol Pot, known also as Salot Sar, from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979. Among the five accused charged with most serious crimes known as crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva convention, Duch’s trials was heard on 30 March and will continue until 2 July 2009 as planned if there is no any unpredicted change. This trial is the first day in the history of justice seeking for the Cambodian people who have been waiting for about 30 years after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime on 7 January 1979 by Vietnamese intervention.

In a smart-looking dresses standing before the five ECCC judges, Duch was questioned by Trial Chamber presiding Judge Nil Non before proceeding with in-depth hearing in front of the other parties including the co-prosecutors and civil parties and their multi-national representing lawyers. The hearing was organized with the participation of approximately 500 participants sitting in the court room and who are representatives of the general public, foreign embassies, NGOs workers and other interested foreigners. The trials started with two greffiers who were consecutively reading the 3-hour long closing order issued by the co-investigating judges which indicates various crimes had been committed at S-21, the most notorious security and torture center, to hold the accused accountable for such crimes. In that closing order, these crimes are classified into three categories; crimes against humanity, war crimes or grave breaches of the Geneva convention and two domestic crimes; torture and killing in accordance with the Law on the establishment of the ECCC.

According the statistic raised in the closing order, in the combined prisoners’ list there were 12,380 persons exterminated at S-21, Chheung Ek and S-24 (Prey Sar) which included men and women, young and old, children, Khmer, Khmer Kampuchea Krom, Vietnamese, Cham and a few westerners, both civilian and combatants, former regime’s civil servants, new people, etc. Among those who had been killed under the leadership of Duch, according the opening statement of the co-prosecutor, about 70% were men targeted and about 400 of them were Vietnamese combatants, and the number had been significantly increased especially during the fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese at the border in late 1978.

On the 31 March, the co-prosecutors provided an opening statement charging the accused person, at his role and responsibilities at the S-21, which planned, encouraged and participated in commissions of various crimes such as torture to extract confessions from those who were considered as enemies of the regime, killing, extermination, sexual violence, unlawful detaining of (political) prisoners, and other inhuman acts under the international and national laws. In order to explain clearly and more precise pictures of the crimes described and found, the co-prosecutors also showed the judges some of the important video footages, graphs, organizational map, S-21structure and many photos of the disappeared victims convincing the judges and other parties to recall what had been happening at S-21 under the accused’s responsibilities. However, until this moment, there were no chance yet for the other parties including the co-defense lawyers or accused to raise arguments or clarify the evidence in relations to the charges described by the co-prosecutors, and that proceeding will be heard in the later days.

“Seeking for justice means seeking for the truth” which will then explain what had happened in a clearer picture at the S-21 and through out Cambodia during the Democratic Kampuchea period, said Robert Petit, international co-prosecutor, at his conclusion of the opening statement. He also added the right judgment of the ECCC will bring hope of some justice to the Cambodian people who are victimized by the Khmer Rouge regime. However, at these two-day trial have not indicated that whether Duch is guilt or innocent until the final judgment to be made by the ECCC Chamber in the coming months.


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