Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tribunal disappointment

I heard some news yesterday that will be a further disappointment to those observing the Khmer Rouge Tribunal taking place in Cambodia. It follows hot on the heels of news that the trial against Duch, the former chief of Tuol Sleng, the Khmer Rouge centre of interrogation in Phnom Penh during the KR reign of terror over the country, has been delayed until the beginning of December at the earliest, as prosecutors want to extend the level of his accountability. The latest blow to the Tribunal is the recent resignation of Stephen Heder, one of the ECCC's key investigators with the office of the Co-Investigating Judges and without doubt one of the most knowledgeable people on the hierarchy and complexity of the Khmer Rouge leadership. Heder has returned to his duties as a lecturer in political science at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and the Tribunal can ill afford to lose someone of his experience, knowledge and integrity. He first visited Cambodia in 1973 as a journalist for Time magazine and subsequently researched Cambodian politics and human rights for organizations such as the UN, the US State Department, Amnesty and the Holocaust Museum. A leading scholar on the country, he has written numerous articles and monographs on Cambodia including the book Seven Candidates for Prosecution, the only historical-legal analysis of the individual culpability of senior Khmer Rouge leaders, and is fluent in the Khmer language. His departure weakens the Tribunal. It was Heder who put some numbers on who he thought should be targeted for investigation under the auspices of the Tribunal in a public forum on which he was a panelist in 2004, when he said 10 senior leaders and 50 of the most responsible subordinates should be considered. Heder also published a paper in 2005 called Chain of Command Responsibility for the Murder of Christopher Howes: Perpetrators and Witnesses, which unfortunately I have never been able to get my hands on.


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