Monday, September 21, 2009

Testimony complete

Duch in the dock
We have reached an important stage in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and in particular the trial of Comrade Duch, the former commandant of S-21 (Tuol Sleng). After five and a half months of witness testimony and evidence, the court will now move into its closing stages of final written submissions and closing arguments in November. We have seen 33 witnesses and 22 civil parties in the trial to-date, 351 allegations and 72 trial days in all. I attended just once on the day that David Chandler gave his expert testimony. It was clear to me that Duch was enjoying his moment in the spotlight, and though he has freely acknowledged his role as the head of S-21, he is not telling the whole truth and only reveals what he wants us to know. His defense has focused on the premise that he acted out of fear for his life and whilst that may've been partly true, his capability as head of the interrogation and extermination center tells a very different story. This man is responsible for at least 12,000 deaths, and probably many more, and deserves whatever the Tribunal can throw at him. His remorse is a sham and his guilt is clear, even though his former S-21 colleagues were less than forthcoming in their time on the stand. Nevertheless, the paper trail left by the Khmer Rouge and his own admissions, have sealed his fate.
A new book on the Tribunal will be launched by DC-Cam at Monument Books on Saturday 3 October (6pm). It's called On Trial: The Khmer Rouge Accountability Process and is a collection of essays by seven authors on what the trial represents. The authors, John D Ciorciari and Anne Heindel, are both legal advisors with DC-Cam and the 352-page book has a foreword by Youk Chhang, its director. John Ciorciarai has already published a 200-page book, The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, back in 2006. And we are still awaiting the release of Bou Meng's A Survivor from Khmer Rouge Prison S-21, written by Vannak Huy, which has been put on hold during the trial of Comrade Duch. Also in the works is a monograph history of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum by Yin Nean, which should be out sometime next year.

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