On Thursday, September 22, the curtains at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia will open for the last time. Given the $350 million spent, long delays, two trials, and non-stop controversies, many people wonder: was the tribunal worth the expense and effort?
I am one of them. I served as an expert witness at the tribunal in 2016. And I have spent years conducting research on the Khmer Rouge, a group of Marxist revolutionaries who seized power in April 1975 amid the Vietnam War. By the time they were toppled from power in January 1979, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge had committed genocide.
Due to geopolitics, it took almost 25 years to establish the United Nations-backed Khmer Rouge Tribunal, formally known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). But, since it commenced operations in 2006, the court has convicted only three people. Two others have died in custody. The last one standing is 91-year-old Khieu Samphan, the former Khmer Rouge head of state, whose appeal will be decided on Thursday. Then the ECCC will start shutting down.