After months of riveting testimony, a war crimes tribunal in Cambodia is struggling to continue its own Nuremberg-style trial of former senior Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary.

It is inconceivable that the international community would imperil this historic trial midstream and undermine justice for the estimated 1.7 million Cambodians who perished under Pol Pot’s rule from 1975 to 1979.

The survivors have not forgotten what they endured. An astounding 150,000 Cambodians have visited the trials of the tribunal in Phnom Penh — a number that exceeds the public spectators of all of the other war-crimes tribunals combined.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las grandes matanzas del siglo XX han suscitado un enorme volumen de publicaciones en las que se relatan historias individuales, en su inmensa mayoría las de las víctimas y los supervivientes. Los libros como Desde aquella oscuridad, en el que la periodista Gitta Sereny refleja sus entrevistas detalladas con Franz Stangl, el antiguo responsable de Treblinka, son excepción. Y todavía más infrecuente, e incluso imposible, es encontrar documentales que nos muestren a los autores de esos crímenes de masas comprometidos con la búsqueda de la verdad. Pero su interés salta a la vista. Oír hablar a las víctimas es desgarrador, provoca emoción y compasión, pero no nos enseña nada: las víctimas no son las responsables de esos hechos, sino quienes han sufrido, impotentes, la voluntad de otros.…  Seguir leyendo »

International criminal courts usually begin their work with a mid-ranking defendant and impose a heavy sentence after their first conviction. The war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were the first to do so.

On Friday, the appeals chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia — a mixed tribunal based in Phnom Penh and tasked with trying the worst offenders of the Pol Pot regime — followed in their footsteps: it imposed a life sentence on Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the 69-year-old former commander of the Khmer Rouge’s infamous S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, where between 1975 and 1979 more than 12,000 people were detained, tortured and sent for execution.…  Seguir leyendo »

A few hours outside of Cambodia’s capital, 58-year-old Taing Kim, a delicate woman who spent several years as a nun, lives in a gray concrete house in the middle of a quiet village amid a sea of rice paddies. She settled in Kampong Chhnang nearly 30 years ago and makes her living by farming and selling firewood. She was married in 1980 but says her husband left her when he learned of her past.

Taing Kim is one of thousands of victims who have filed to be heard in the trial of three of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, the murderous party in power from 1975 to 1979 that tried to forcibly create an agrarian utopia in Cambodia — and killed some 1.7 million people along the way.…  Seguir leyendo »

This past Monday, Siegfried Blunk, the international co-investigating judge at the United Nations-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia, resigned. As Judge Blunk explained, repeated demands by senior Cambodian officials to end all ongoing investigations have been “perceived as attempted interference” and “call in doubt the integrity of the whole proceedings.”

For months, civil society organizations, including my own, have warned that the Cambodian government’s public opposition to the two remaining cases under investigation (“003” and “004” in the parlance of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) threatened the very independence of the court. Judge Blunk has now, sadly, confirmed our greatest fears.…  Seguir leyendo »

The trial of surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge will begin in Phnom Penh on Monday. The fact that the case has even made it this far is a minor miracle to those of us who were in Cambodia during the 1990s, when the defendants’ amnesties seemed secure.

The court — the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (E.C.C.C.), better known as the “mixed tribunal” — has charged, with various counts of war crimes, the former head of state, Khieu Samphan; Nuon Chea, described as the movement’s ideologue; Ieng Sary, the foreign minister; and his wife, Ieng Thirith, who was minister of social affairs.…  Seguir leyendo »

More than 30 years after the murderous Khmer Rouge were driven from power in Cambodia, the U.N.-backed effort to bring justice to the victims of the killing fields stands on the brink of ignominious failure due to political interference from the Cambodian government and the indifference of the international community.

A hybrid court, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, has spent over $200 million since it was set up in 2003 with both international and local judges and prosecutors. It has tried only one person: Kang Kech Eav, or Duch, the head of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison complex, who is appealing his conviction for crimes against humanity, murder and torture.…  Seguir leyendo »

Peter Klashorst says it was just another regular day of heat, hawkers and honking in Cambodia’s capital when his walking paintings caused a stir on the street.

Portraits more than six and a half feet high and nearly four feet wide floated by — the large canvases cloaking the men carrying them — leaving pedestrians befuddled and even distressed.

The Dutch artist thinks some people recognized the iconic faces he had rendered: Those of prisoners tortured in the Khmer Rouge’s infamous S-21 prison. Memories of this death machine and its victims remain among the most indelible images of Cambodia’s nightmare revolution in the late 1970s, in which an estimated 1.7 million people perished.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week, a U.N.-backed tribunal convicted Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, for war crimes in what was the first trial of a major Khmer Rouge figure. Many media reports portrayed the verdict in a positive light, but for survivors, victims and their families, there was nothing positive in this outcome.

An editorial in the International Herald Tribune (“Forgotten victims?” July 29) stated that while the sentence handed down by the tribunal may be disappointing, at least Duch was held to account for his war crimes. Unfortunately, “at least” isn’t good enough for me and for those who suffered from the murderous actions of the Khmer Rouge, especially after waiting 30 years for this verdict.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cambodia’s war crimes court, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC, deserves credit for convicting Kaing Guek Eav, better known as “Duch,” for war crimes and sentencing him to 35 years in prison. But Duch was the legal equivalent of a “tomato can” in boxing — an unskilled opponent used to pad a win-loss record. His conviction was an easy knockout.

Now that that legal mismatch is over, the long delayed main event — the trial of the aging Khmer Rouge political leaders — Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea and Ieng Thirith — can begin.

Unlike Duch, a functionary who admitted he was “responsible for the crimes committed” and expressed “deep regret and heartfelt sorrow,” the regime’s top leaders will mount aggressive defenses and maintain their innocence until the end.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dans le procès hors du commun de l'ancien Khmer rouge Douch, qui se tient à Phnom Penh depuis février et qui s'achèvera fin novembre, il y a d'abord les victimes, les ex-prisonniers survivants de la prison de sécurité 21 ou "S21", et les familles de tous les suppliciés.

Disons tout de suite que le pardon des victimes, qui a été maladroitement sollicité lors de leurs poignantes dépositions à la barre en août, n'est pas et ne doit pas être l'enjeu de ce procès. Nul n'est autorisé à demander aux victimes de pardonner les crimes odieux subis par eux ou par leurs proches.…  Seguir leyendo »

I was 15 in 1975, when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge overtook Cambodia, enslaving my people and turning our farmland into what the world now calls the Killing Fields. During the next four years I lost my mother and father, my brothers, aunts, uncles and friends to the cruel oppression that claimed 1.7 million lives.

As a boy I prayed every day for someone to stop the slavery and the killings. No one did. I saw soldiers force people to dig the holes in which they would be buried alive. We ate mice, rats, lizards. My 8-year-old niece starved before my eyes.…  Seguir leyendo »

After 10 years of detention, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Comrade Duch, is to appear today before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was arrested in 1999, after 20 years of living incognito, for crimes committed on his orders as commander of the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh from 1975 to 1979, when the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia and were responsible for the deaths of more than a million people.

I was his prisoner for three months in 1971, in a camp known as M13 hidden in the forest of the Cardamom mountains.…  Seguir leyendo »

Camboya es el enigma de Asia. Según su pasado reciente, debería ser una sociedad herida, sacudida por los odios, asolada por los conflictos y empobrecida por años de guerra. Sin embargo, nada de eso parece caracterizar al país hoy. Por tanto, la pregunta a la que se enfrenta el visitante es cómo ha logrado ese país renacer de una de las experiencias más espantosas de los tiempos modernos.

Tal como define un informe oficial del Gobierno el mandato de los jemeres rojos, "Kampuchea Democrática fue una de las peores tragedias del siglo XX". "El régimen acabó con casi dos millones de vidas y dejó tras de sí a decenas de miles de viudas y huérfanos", indica.…  Seguir leyendo »

Angka. Duch. Monosyllables that, 30 years on, Cambodians can barely be induced to utter, even within the family, so unbearable is the pain, the abiding fear, and also the eerily generalised guilt those words invoke.

Angka, “the collective”: the murderous Khmer Rouge forbade people to attach names or faces to the regime that was bent on crushing all traces of identity out of them.

Duch, the Year Zero sobriquet of Kaing Khek Ieu: now a born-again Christian, but between 1975 and 1979 the Angka’s methodical torture master. This week, a full decade after it was agreed that Khmer Rouge leaders should face trial, he became the first of Pol Pot’s henchmen to be indicted for crimes against humanity.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Alex Hinton, an associate professor of anthropology at Rutgers University at Newark and is the author of "Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide." (THE WASHINGTON POST, 04/08/06):

Ta Mok, the notorious former Khmer Rouge military commander and central committee member nicknamed "The Butcher," died two weeks ago today. His death, like that of Pol Pot in 1998, deprives Cambodians of yet another chance to see a key architect of the Cambodian genocide held accountable for the campaign of mass murder unleashed from 1975 to 1979.

Ta Mok's passing was filled with ironies. Most immediate was the incongruous sight of his being given an elaborate Buddhist funeral, replete with 72 chanting monks, and being laid to rest in a concrete monument on the grounds of a temple.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Nathaniel Myers, former adviser to a coalition of Cambodian nongovernmental organizations on issues concerning the Khmer Rouge tribunal (THE WASHINGTON POST, 24/12/05):

Speaking to a Senate subcommittee two years ago, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that, given the level of "lawlessness and impunity" in the country under discussion, it made "no sense" to even consider convening a human rights tribunal to conduct trials on the heinous crimes of the ousted regime. The country he was referring to was not Iraq -- though it certainly could have been -- but Cambodia, where the United Nations had just finished negotiations with the government to establish a joint tribunal to prosecute surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge.…  Seguir leyendo »