Some Justice for Cambodia

July 27, 2010
The New York Times
Editorial

It is disturbing that the Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen, has said the court will not prosecute more suspects than the ones in custody. One has to ask, whom is he trying to protect?

Thirty years later, Cambodia’s “killing fields” are still haunting. A Buddhist memorial displays 5,000 haphazardly arranged human skulls — a tiny fraction of the 1.7 million Cambodians butchered by the Khmer Rouge.

While the world must never forget what happened, there is at least the beginning of justice. On Monday, a United Nations-backed tribunal convicted Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, of war crimes and crimes against humanity — the first major Khmer Rouge figure to be tried since the regime was overthrown. He has already spent 16 years in prison, and the tribunal sentenced him to another 19 years.

Duch oversaw a notorious prison where more than 14,000 people were tortured and killed. During an eight-month trial, he admitted to many of the charges against him. His defense — he was a “cog in a machine” — is no defense at all.

We understand why many of the victims of the Khmer Rouge and their families were disappointed that he was not given life in prison. He should never taste freedom, but at least he was held to account and he will be 86 years old when his sentence is served.
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Cambodian ‘Justice’: Without major personnel changes, the Khmer Rouge trial risks descending into farce

By SOPHAL EAR

While my mother, four siblings and I escaped Pol Pot’s Cambodia in 1976, my father died of dysentery and malnutrition after a brief stay at a mite-infested Khmer Rouge “hospital.” Although I have harbored grave doubts about the ability of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal underway in Phnom Penh to punish the guilty, I hoped for the best and even filed a civil complaint with the Tribunal’s victims unit last year.

But I can no longer in good conscience sit back in silence and watch this theater of the absurd. As with so many other donor-financed projects, the Tribunal—set up in 2006 to bring justice to millions of Khmer Rouge victims—has been mired in an endless stream of corruption and mismanagement allegations.

David Klein

The latest news came on August 11, when Uth Chhorn was named to the court as an independent counselor. Mr. Chhorn is Cambodia’s auditor-general and heads the seven-year-old National Audit Authority, which is supposed to audit the government’s activities. It has yet to make a single report public. His appointment was sanctioned by the United Nations, which manages the court alongside the Cambodian government.

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