Saturday, November 28, 2009

khmer rouge tribunal - case one update.

The nine-month long trial of Kang Kek Iew (better known as "Duch"), the first case for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, ended this week. Duch is charged with crimes against humanity for his participation in the Khmer Rouge, notably in his role as commander of Tuol Sleng prison ("S-21"), where at least 14,000 people were imprisoned (almost all of whom were tortured and killed). Duch confessed to the significant role that he played in the deaths of many Cambodians.

The NY Times has a concise update of what happened in the last days of Duch's trial. The gist of it is that Duch asked for the tribunal to set him free, even with his numerous admissions of guilt. Duch's lawyers had a very unusual legal strategy in the last week of the case -- although I don't think it was a "strategy" as much as a complete debacle: First, Duch's Cambodian lawyer claimed that his client was not guilty -- even though Duch made many confessions. The next day, Duch's French lawyer asserted that Duch ought to be granted lenience because the S-21 deaths did not account for a "large" number of those who died during the Khmer Rouge's reign.

Despite Duch's lawyer's arguments in the past week, from what I've seen in this trial, there is more than enough evidence to convict Duch for the crimes that he committed. There is no way he should be granted "lenience," not to mention set free entirely. The evidence presented by the prosecutors (and Duch's own confessions, even with his qualifying statements) established that Duch did indeed commit crimes against humanity and he should be punished accordingly.

Although this first trial was a long time in the making (and, in my opinion, way too late in the game), I must admit that I'm pleased to see that the a fair trial even took place and seems well on its way to resulting in a verdict.

The tribunal's verdict is expected in early 2010. The trials of the remaining four defendants are scheduled to take place in 2011.

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