Archive for the ‘Khmer Rouge’ Category

Judges rap prosecutor at Khmer Rouge trial

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — An internal debate over the targets of
Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal turned into a public dispute
Wednesday, when judges ordered a prosecutor to retract his call for
further investigations.

The fight at the United Nations-backed
tribunal added to mounting fears that prosecutions are being quashed for
political reasons.
The two investigating judges, from Germany and
Cambodia, on Wednesday ordered British co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley to
withdraw a statement he issued last week citing specific crimes that
deserved further investigation. They said the statement violated
tribunal rules and must be retracted within three days, without
specifying the punishment for failure to comply.
Critics fear the
judges ended their investigations prematurely into what the court calls
Case 003, bowing to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s demands that the trial’s
focus be kept narrowly on the one suspect convicted last year and four
set for trial next month.
About 1.7 million people died of
starvation, exhaustion, lack of medical care or torture during the
communist Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror in the 1970s.
statement was issued just a few days after co-investigating judges
Siegfried Blunk and You Bunleng announced that all investigations into
Case 003 had been concluded.
The tribunal follows French-style
law, which mandates that investigating judges collect evidence that is
then forwarded to prosecutors who decide whether to go to trial. There
are parallel sets of Cambodian and international judges and prosecutors
working together.
Legal observers and victims advocates complained
that the investigations into the new cases were cut short without even
the most basic effort being made, such as summoning the suspects for
“They’ve basically done a desk study, and it appears
that that desk study was a sham,” Brad Adams, Asia director for Human
Rights Watch, said in an interview last week in Bangkok. “It was a
political decision, it appears, to shut down this case.”
statement called the investigation inadequate and detailed previously
unreleased information about the yet-to-be-prosecuted cases, including
information about mass graves and other alleged crime sites.
judges’ order said that Cayley violated court confidentiality rules and
ordered him to publicly retract his statement within three days.
was traveling and could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But his
deputy, Bill Smith, told The Associated Press that Cayley had not
decided yet whether to appeal the judges’ order. He said Cayley was
justified in releasing the information under court rules.
Source: Associate Press
Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell: Cannes Review

May 16, 2011 Leave a comment
This one-on-one interview with a former Khmer Rouge party secretary explores his tenure as director of two prisons specializing in what we now call “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Mam Nai (back row, far left) and Duch (back row, second from right) at an unknown location in Phnom Penh. Date is unknown. Courtesy of Documentation Center of Cambodia

Best viewed as a companion piece to his 2002 documentary, S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, Cambodian auteur Rithy Panh once again delves into his homeland’s bloody historical record in Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell.
This one-on-one interview with a former Khmer Rouge party secretary
explores his tenure as director of two prisons specializing in what we
now call “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Composed mostly of talking
heads and archive footage, doc’s best bet is fests, public TV and a few
specialty distribs following its Cannes premiere.

More formally conventional than S21– which featured a handful of ex-torturers reenacting their crimes within the abandoned secret prison located in Phnom Pneh – Duch consists of a lengthy conversation with Kaing Guek Eav (nicknamed
“Duch” for unknown reasons), a loyal follower of the Khmer Rouge who
supervised torture procedures in the M13 and S21 facilities, and is
currently a serving a 35-year sentence for crimes against humanity.
Giving Duch free reign to narrate his rise to power within the party,
spout Marxist ideology and recite French poetry at will, Panh provides
what is likely one of the most elaborate discussions with someone
responsible for mass genocide, which in this case saw the depths of
nearly 2 million people between 1975 and 1979. At once didactic and
dismissive, Duch explains that he “had to do the job in the party’s
interest, in my own interest of survival,” but denies having tortured
the victims himself. When confronted with conflicting testimony from
several underlings, he just laughs it off, and then claims that he’s
“doing his best to forget.”
Not unlike Hannah Arendt’s classic study of Eichmann, Duch describes
a highly bureaucratic apparatus of death, where testimonies culled from
tortured prisoners are scrutinized, corrected, and then sent to party
headquarters to be examined by defense minister Son Sen and, occasionally, by Pol Pot himself. 
Although a few convict photos are glimpsed briefly at intervals, the
film is most telling when Duch holds up copies of his own handwritten
lists of slaughtered prisoners, revealing how an entire life was reduced
by the Khmer regime into a single stroke of ink.
Mixing the interviews with black and white archive images of Cambodian
labor camps, Panh mostly spares us the grittier footage of mass graves
and human remains, allowing Duch’s own accounts of abuse and execution
to sink in even deeper.
Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Haunting memories linger in Cambodia

May 15, 2011 Leave a comment
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is a former high school that was used as a prison by the Khmer Rouge regime. / Maggie Downs, Special to The Desert Sun
This used to be a school.
Then the
Khmer Rouge communist regime took over. From 1975 to 1979, this
institute of higher learning was turned into a torture chamber, Security
Prison 21. An estimated 20,000 people were beaten, maimed, tortured and
killed in the converted Phnom Penh high school. Some of them were
soldiers for the opposition. Others were simply intellectuals,
academics, doctors, teachers, monks and students.
Now the buildings form a memorial site called Tuol Sleng, which translates to “Strychnine Hill.”
These are some of the people who died there. Their faces haunt me.
On the right you can see photos of the prisoners as they looked when they arrived at S-21.
The corresponding photo on the left side is how they looked before they perished.
Many of the classrooms still have blood-stained tiles underneath rusty beds and shackles.
building facade is shrouded in barbed netting. The desperate prisoners
who tried to commit suicide off the buildings were instead wounded by
razor-laced wire.
the guards ran out of burial space near the school, the prisoners were
taken outside of town to Choeung Ek extermination center, a place better
known as the Killing Fields.
inmates were beaten with iron bars, axes and bamboo sticks until they
were tossed into mass graves. Then chemicals were poured over the bodies
to kill those who were buried alive.
have a difficult time coming up with any words to talk about this. It’s
why I still haven’t written about my experiences visiting the genocide
memorials in Rwanda. It’s such a deep dark confusing pit of emotion, I
don’t even know where to begin.
It’s heinous, yes. Confronting such evil makes me doubt my belief that people are inherently good.
It forces me to question God. It makes me want to cry out in horror.
But it goes beyond that too.
I travel, I realize how much of the existence I enjoy is pure luck. It
is only by chance that I came into this world in a humid Georgia
hospital instead of a humid Cambodian town.
is only a fluke that I have an easy life, one I never had to fight for.
It’s a sheer accident that I didn’t witness the slaughter of my family
in 1994 Rwanda. Instead I was getting shoes dyed to match my prom dress.
It could have been me. It could have been you.
It could have been all of us.
Sometimes the horrible incidents that we see on the news feel so far away.

But it only takes one chilling walk through a sorrow-soaked hallway to remind you of how close it could really be.

Source: My Desert News

Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Cambodia: Study the Khmer Rouges to avoid the same mistakes, young Cambodian woman says

May 7, 2011 Leave a comment

A young woman writes a letter to a newspaper, saying that the
country’s history includes both the “marvellous period” of Angkor and
the hellish nightmare of Pol Pot’s regime. For many others, the
country’s recent history is painful, useless and better left forgotten.
Activists warn that UN trials …

Phnom Penh – “I believe that if we
do not learn from mistakes, the same mistakes will happen again,” wrote a
young Cambodian woman, Kunty Seng, in a letter published on
For her, Cambodians must study the “marvellous period” of the Angkor
era as well as the genocidal “reign of horror” under Pol Pot and his
Khmer Rouge acolytes. In the meantime, human rights groups are sounding
the alarm because the United Nations tribunal currently trying former
Khmer Rouge leaders, including former deputy prime minister and “Brother
Number Three” Ieng Sary, could close before it finishes its work.
Likewise, many are concerned that prosecutors are not conducting
investigations properly, which could compromise future prosecutions.
Cambodia still bears the scars of the four years of
Khmer Rouge rule (1975-1979), which killed almost two million people
(about a quarter of the population), including the country’s elites
(intellectuals, doctors, teachers and artists)
Sociologists and Catholic leaders have told AsiaNews
several times that Cambodians are not much inclined towards in-depth
self-analysis and historical introspection. Largely, “money and
economics”, not the past, are what counts. Still, there are some signs
that something is changing.
In her letter, Kunty Seng wrote that some of her
friends “say we should not talk about it because it is painful to be
reminded of such a horrible time in our history.” They “view the Khmer
Rouge tribunal as being useless because it can never bring all of the
Khmer Rouge cadres to justice. They say: ‘The tribunal is a fake symbol;
it is for a political gain only’.”
“I have a different view. I think that one needs to
talk about what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime. I know that
Cambodian leaders made a big mistake and future leaders must not make
the same mistake again. I believe that if we do not learn from mistakes,
the same mistakes will happen again.”
“Since my childhood, I have been taught about
Cambodia, the Land of Sovann Phumi or ‘Golden Land’,” about “the
marvellous period of Angkor era”, a place with beautiful temples that
are now part of the world’s heritage.
However, “I have learned very little in school about
what happened during the reign of horror of the Khmer Rouge,” she wrote.
“What I have learned I have learned from my parents and other
“I believe that [the] younger generation should be
taught both the good things about Cambodia” during the “Angkor era” and
“the terrible history of the Khmer Rouge.”
Meanwhile, legal and human rights activists are
concerned that Cambodia’s UN- backed genocide tribunal might shut down
before the main accused, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng
Thirith, are tried, undermining any future trial against other former
Pol Pot officials.
Defence lawyers have in fact demanded the release of
their aged clients, who are on trial for war crimes and crimes against
Last week the co-investigating judges, a Cambodian and
a German, officially informed the court that their investigation for
Case No. 3 was complete. The names of those being probed have been kept
secret, but they are believed to include at least five second-tier Khmer
Rouge officials.
Critics including Human Rights Watch say the
co-investigating judges have done an incomplete probe in an effort to
scuttle future prosecutions.
So far, the only accused that was convicted is Kaing
Guev Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, who ran the notorious S-21
prison in Phnom Penh.
He admitted his guilt, saying he followed orders, and for this was sentenced to 35 years in jail.
His lawyers have appealed the sentence.

Source: Asia News

Ieng Sary back in courtroom

May 5, 2011 Leave a comment
Photo by: Eccc/Pool

Iang Sary, who was
deputy prime minister and foreign minister during the rule of the Khmer
Rouge, sits through a hearing at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal yesterday.

A feeble Ieng Sary appeared before Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal
yesterday to challenge his provisional detention ahead of his looming
trial alongside three other senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

for the former KR foreign minister argued that judges had not rendered a
sufficiently reasoned decision on the defence appeal of last year’s
indictment within the window during which the court could still compel
their client’s detention. The maximum time limit for pre-trial detention
since Ieng Sary’s 2007 arrest has therefore now lapsed, the defence

The challenge follows appeals earlier this year on similar
grounds by the other three defendants set to be tried in the court’s
second case: former KR head of state Khieu Samphan, Brother No 2 Nuon
Chea and Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith. These appeals have been

Despite this precedent, defence lawyer Ang Udom told
the court yesterday that there was no legal basis to continue Ieng
Sary’s detention.

“Mr Ieng Sary has the presumption of innocence and has not been convicted of any crime,” Ang Udom said.

“The most suitable remedy is to release Mr Ieng Sary on bail immediately.”

defence recommended that Ieng Sary be released from the court’s
detention facility and placed under house arrest at his expansive home
in Phnom Penh.

“Brother No 3” himself, now 85 years old, managed
less than an hour in court yesterday before asking to leave due to
fatigue. His lawyers have requested that the court conduct his upcoming
trial in half-day sessions in view of his health concerns.

the loose-fitting button-down shirt of the style he has worn in
previous hearings, he appeared fatigued and at one point seemed to doze
off as his lawyers spoke in front of him. Early in the session, the
defence asked that he be given leave for a bathroom break.

of the argument yesterday followed the template of previous hearings on
pre-trial detention. At one point, however, defence lawyer Michael
Karnavas provided a sample of the debate over Cambodia’s complicated
history with the West that is sure to come at greater length in the
upcoming trial.

Responding to comments from deputy prosecutor
Veng Huot, who noted in passing statements of support for the tribunal
from United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon and American secretary
of state Hillary Clinton, Karnavas said the UN was not “in any position
to be lecturing”, given its support for the Khmer Rouge for years
following their 1979 overthrow.

“I do believe that we should be
entitled to talk about the carpet bombing, by the United States, of
Cambodia. We should be able to talk about the UN’s involvement after
1979,” Karnavas said, accusing UN officials of limiting the court’s
jurisdiction to events between 1975 and 1979 “to ensure that those
issues were not properly vented out”.

Phnom Penh Post
Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

A Look at the Day the Khmer Rouge Took Power

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment
A Khmer Rouge rebel frisks a civilian in downtown Phnom Penh hours
after the rebel forces led by Pol Pot took control of the Cambodian
capital April 17, 1975. Photo: AP
The Documentation Center of Cambodia is preparing a permanent
exhibition of photographs marking the day the Khmer Rouge took over
Phnom Penh and began their devastating four-year rule 36 years ago.
Chhang Youk, director of the center, said the exhibition, which
opens next Monday, is to remind people of the beginning of the Khmer
Rouge atrocities.
The exhibition showcases 17 rare photographs taken by American photographer Al Rockoff and French photographer Roland Neveu.
The center receives between 600 and 800 visitors each month, Chhang
Youk said, and the exhibit is meant to be a discussion point that
provides a look back at Phnom Penh.
In the exhibition, one can see victorious Khmer Rouge soldiers, Lon
Nol troops protecting the evacuation of the US Embassy, Phnom Penh
residents leaving the city, and a woman who weeps near her dead husband
on the side of the road, among other images of the day.
April 17, 1975, is annually marked as the day the Khmer Rouge took
over, instituting ultra-communist policies that lead to the deaths of
up to 2.2 million people.
This year, a survivor of the Tuol Sleng prison commemorated the day
with a ceremony there, while members of the opposition visited the mass
graves of the Choeung Ek execution site outside the city.
“Any activity to remember this day is necessary,” said Dim
Sovannarom, a spokesman for the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal. “And
that’s why the [tribunal] is operational under its mission here to
bring those responsible to trial.”
Source: VOA News
Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Royal pardon no saviour

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Judges at Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal have ruled that a royal pardon
granted to Ieng Sary in 1996 is no bar to the former Khmer Rouge foreign
minister’s prosecution in the court’s looming second case.

The People’s Revolutionary Tribunal tries Khmer Rouge leaders Pol Pot and Ieng Sary in absentia in Phnom Penh in August 1979. Photo by: The documentation centre of Cambodia

Sary received the pardon, signed by then-King Norodom Sihanouk, upon
defecting to the government in 1996. Sihanouk pardoned Ieng Sary in
relation to his 1979 conviction in absentia at the People’s
Revolutionary Tribunal, where he was sentenced to death in absentia
along with regime leader Pol Pot, and granted him amnesty from
prosecution under the 1994 Law to Outlaw the Democratic Kampuchea Group,
which criminalised membership in the Khmer Rouge.

The issue of
this pardon’s scope and its effect on proceedings at the tribunal has
been raised by observers and defence lawyers, as has the question of
whether the current case against Ieng Sary could constitute double
jeopardy in relation to his 1979 conviction. In a decision dated Monday,
however, the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber dispensed with these issues.

amnesty granted to Ieng Sary was confined to the specific sentence
pronounced in 1979,” the judges said in a unanimous decision.

the context where it is related to a sentence, the sole effect of the
amnesty was to ‘abolish’ and ‘forget’ the 1979 sentence, thus ensuring
that it would not be put into effect.

“It had no effect on the
possibility to institute future prosecutions as the amnesty was not
related to the ‘acts’ allegedly committed.”

The judges further
noted that the text of the pardon provides amnesty only in relation to
the 1994 legislation, not for the charges under domestic and
international law that Ieng Sary currently faces at the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the tribunal is formally known.

Sary has been charged with a raft of offences including genocide and
crimes against humanity in a case that is set to go to trial within the
next few months. He will be tried alongside former Khmer Rouge Brother
No 2 Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan and Social Action Minister
Ieng Thirith, none of whom received similar amnesties upon their
defection to the government.

Officials from the United Nations
and the Cambodian government were clearly aware of the issues
surrounding Ieng Sary’s prosecution as they drafted regulations for the

“There has been only one case, dated 14 September 1996,
when a pardon was granted to only one person with regard to a 1979
conviction on the charge of genocide,” the 2003 agreement establishing
the tribunal states.

“The United Nations and the Royal Government
of Cambodia agree that the scope of this pardon is a matter to be
decided by the Extraordinary Chambers.”

Anne Heindel, a legal
adviser with the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said the defence
arguments touched on a “hugely important issue in international law” –
namely, the question of whether pardons for grave crimes are sometimes
necessary to end conflicts.

Should the ECCC disregard the 1996
pardon and amnesty, the defence argued in their appeal against Ieng
Sary’s indictment, it could “have a severely detrimental impact on
attempts to end future conflicts all over the globe”.

taking part in hostilities who are willing to negotiate for peace will
be unlikely to trust that any amnesty offered would later be judged
valid,” the lawyers said.

Heindel said, however, that this issue
was ultimately irrelevant because the language of Ieng Sary’s pardon and
amnesty is limited, touching only on the 1994 law and his 1979 genocide

“Ultimately, if Ieng Sary wanted a better amnesty or pardon, he should have hired a lawyer to draft the text,” she said.

Minister Hun Sen, then serving alongside Norodom Ranariddh in a
coalition government, said in 1996 that Ieng Sary’s pardon and amnesty
had been specifically tailored to allow for future prosecution.

you study the wording of the Royal [amnesty], you will see that there
is still the possibility to try the crimes committed by Ieng Sary,” Hun
Sen said. “We paid much attention to the wording of the pardon … there
are no words in it which ban the accusation of Ieng Sary in front of a
court which may be formed in the coming times.”

The Pre-Trial
Chamber judges also said in their decision Monday that Ieng Sary’s
impending prosecution will not constitute double jeopardy in relation to
his 1979 trial because those proceedings were “not conducted by an
impartial and independent tribunal with regard to due process

The People’s Revolutionary Tribunal, formed
shortly after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, has long been viewed as a
show trial. The PRT president told reporters that the defendants were
guilty before the trial had even begun, and a lawyer for the defence
made a witness statement on behalf of the prosecution.

Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision is not subject to appeal, though Ang Udom, a
lawyer for Ieng Sary, said yesterday that the defence would likely
raise these issues again when the case goes before the Trial Chamber.


Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News