Global Policy Forum

Khmer Rouge Leader May Be Tried in March


By Tim Johnston

Washington Post
January 7, 2009

Three decades to the day after the fall of Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime, the country finally got a possible start date for the trial of one of its key leaders. International co-prosecutor Robert Petit said that Kaing Khek Iev, who was better known as Duch when he headed the Tuol Sleng torture center in Phnom Penh, will probably go on trial in March, but that four other defendants, all in their 80s, are unlikely to take the stand until 2010. The trial process, which has so far cost $50 million, has been marred by delays, controversial defense motions, accusations of corruption and, most recently, a public dispute between Petit and his Cambodian co-prosecutor, Chea Leang, over future prosecutions. Petit wants to file charges against an additional five or six former Khmer Rouge members, but Chea Leang has objected, saying that the court should concentrate its limited resources on the cases on hand. She has also cited a need to focus on national reconciliation. The court's pretrial chamber is due to rule on the disagreement.

As many as 1.7 million Cambodians -- about a fifth of the population -- were killed or succumbed to disease, malnutrition and overwork during the four years the Khmer Rouge were in power before they were removed by Vietnamese forces in 1979. Human Rights Watch has long been critical of the court's inability to bring the perpetrators of Khmer Rouge brutality to justice. "After 30 years, no one has been tried, convicted or sentenced for the crimes of one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century," said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. "This is no accident. For more than a decade, China and the United States blocked efforts at accountability, and for the past decade, [Cambodian Prime Minister] Hun Sen has done his best to thwart justice." For many Cambodians, Jan. 7 is a bittersweet date: It marks their deliverance from the Khmer Rouge but also the beginning of a 10-year occupation by Vietnam. Hun Sen, who came to power 23 years ago under the aegis of the Vietnamese, has no time for such ambivalence. "Whoever is against the day of victory is either Pol Pot or an animal," he told a crowd Tuesday.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on the Special Tribunal for Cambodia
More Information on International Criminal Tribunals and Special Courts


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