Cambodia opens first ‘Killing Fields’ trial
CAMBODIA: The torturer-in-chief of Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge
regime went before a UN-backed genocide tribunal on Tuesday for the
long-awaited first trial into the “Killing Fields” atrocities 30 years
Former maths teacher Kaing Guek Eav better known as Duch sat in the
dock for an initial hearing into charges that he ran the main prison
centre for the hardline-communist regime that killed up to two million
“This first hearing represents the realisation of significant efforts
in establishing a fair and independent tribunal to try those in senior
leadership positions,” chief judge Nil Nonn told the court.
A gaunt-looking Duch, 66, wore a blue shirt and listened through
earphones to lawyers’ arguments as the court launched proceedings behind
a huge bullet-proof screen, designed to prevent revenge attacks by his
For Cambodians, the controversial tribunal, established in 2006 after
nearly a decade of negotiations between Cambodia and the United Nations,
is seen as the last chance to bring the Khmer Rouge’s leaders to
“It is a very important day for me,” Chum Mey, one of only about a
dozen people to have survived the notorious Tuol Sleng detention centre,
told AFP. “I will be a witness and I want to see Duch and ask why he
Duch was indicted last year for allegedly personally overseeing the
torture and extermination of more than 15,000 men, women and children
when he headed the prison, built in a former high school.
Now a born-again Christian, he is charged with crimes against
humanity, war crimes, torture and premeditated murder and faces a
sentence of life in prison from the tribunal. It does not have the power
to impose the death penalty.
Several other survivors and people who lost loved ones at Tuol Sleng
gathered outside the specially-built courtroom on the outskirts of Phnom
Penh for the hearing.
Duch was transported in an armoured Land Cruiser with blacked-out
windows from the nearby villa-style detention centre where he is being
held with four other Khmer Rouge leaders, who face trial later this
Phnom Penh, Tuesday, AFP