Monday, February 16, 2009

KRT Fixes Date for Duch’s Trial

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

The long-awaited trial of Kaing Guek Eav alias “Duch”, the chief of the infamous Tuol Sleng S-21 Prison, where thousands of Cambodians were tortured and killed, is scheduled to begin on Tuesday at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), said Reach Sambath, Press Officer of ECCC.

Sambath said “Duch” is the first of five Khmer Rouge leaders to be tried for their roles in the regime that killed as many as two million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.

He said the Initial Hearing for Duch's trial will start at 9am on February 17th at the ECCC and will also be broadcast live over TVK and Cambodian Television Network (CTN). It will also be aired by National Radio AM 96.

“At the Initial Hearing on Tuesday, the judges will decide on the nature of participation of “civil parties”, or “victims” who have asked to be included in the proceedings. Neither the accused persons, nor any witnesses, experts, or Civil Parties will speak at the Initial Hearing on any matters of substance,” he told the Cambodia Weekly on February 13.

So far, the ECCC’s Victims Unit has received 94 applications from individuals seeking civil party status as part of Case File 1 as well as 280 complaints concerning Duch, in connection to the S-21Security Office, the S-24 Security Office (Prey Sar), and the Choeung Ek execution site.

“Following the Initial Hearing, the President, in consultation with the Trial Chamber, will fix the date of the Substantive Hearing. The Substantive Hearing will consider the evidence contained in the Case File. The accused person, witnesses, experts and the Civil Parties may testify or make statements orally during this part of the trial,” he added.

Sambath said 28 of 94 requests have already recognized during the investigative phase and they have now been transferred to the Trial Chamber. He added that about 500 participants including former Khmer Rouge Victims, national and international NGO representatives, national and international journalists and foreign embassy representatives will participate in Duch’s trial.

Chhang Youk, President of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DCC), a local NGO formed in 1997, said he was happy with the news of Duch’s trial. He said his Centre has spent 12 years collecting records of Khmer Rouge atrocities. Many documents from the centre have been submitted as evidence to the tribunal.

“I support Duch’s trial because I have waited for it for 12 years now. I think that the ECCC now has enough documents and witnesses to try Duch,” he told the Cambodia Weekly during a telephone interview on February 23.

He continued, “I hope the hearing will allow us to understand what really happened there. I also hope that the trial will be conducted in a free, fair and acceptable manner for all participants and we are going to find justice for the victims who were killed during the Khmer Rouge period.”

Chum Mey, a former S-21 prisoner, said that he and his family are comfortable in attending Duch’s trial on Tuesday. Mey said that he had been waiting for Duch’s trial for the last 30 years.

“I have been waiting for the best part of my life, and when I attend the trial, I want to hear clearly from Duch why my children and I were jailed at the S-21 Security Office. What crimes had we committed? And why did they torture and kill so many people during the Khmer Rouge regime?” he said.

Vann Nath, another survivor of the horrors of the S-21 Security Office, said that he was also willing to attend Duch’s trial.

Nath said, “It has taken a long time and I am tired of waiting. However, I am now very happy because Duch’s trial is scheduled to begin this week.”

“I expect the Khmer Rouge Trials will give me and all the other victims justice,” he added.

According to CDC documents, more than 17,000 people were tortured and killed at the S-21 torture centre in Phnom Penh under Duch’s authority.

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