Khmer Rouge Tribunal Sets First Two Weeks of S-21 Trial

At 10 am Monday, former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, will enter the courtroom and hear a reading of his indictment, beginning a week of trial at which he will also hear prosecutors’ opening statements and may personally address the court, the Khmer Rouge tribunal announced Monday.

In a departure from two years of public proceedings largely concerned with technical matters, the resumption of Duch’s trial, which opened last month, will be the mo-ment the court finally begins to weigh the guilt or innocence of its detainees.

In a schedule of the hearing released by the court Monday, Tri-al Chamber President Nil Nonn also set for April 6 a second week of testimony about M-13, a Khmer Rouge counterintelligence operation and detention camp in Kom-pong Speu province’s Thpong district, where from 1971 to 1975 Duch allegedly oversaw the detention and execution of thousands.

In their indictment issued in August, judicial investigators found that Duch was put in charge of S-21, the prison better known as Tuol Sleng, and he stands accused of overseeing the execution of at least 12,380 men, women and children, in part because the regime valued his experiences at M-13. Methods of torture, interrogation and execution along with trusted M-13 staff were taken for use at S-21 headquarters after its opening in October 1975.

According to the schedule, dated Friday, after a week’s recess for the Khmer New Year, which falls from April 13 to 15, the court will next hear testimony concerning the establishment of S-21 as well as on the implemented Communist Par-ty policy at S-21; armed conflict with Vietnam; the functioning of the Choeung Ek killing fields and Prey Sar prison, which were or-gans of the S-21 center; and regarding the character of the accused, Duch.

Further proceedings are to be scheduled no later than April 24.

Despite the start of the S-21 trial, Duch remains under investigation with the tribunal’s other four de-tainees for crimes alleged to have occurred throughout the country.

In a request last week, lawyers representing a group of 18 victims party to the Duch trial asked that they be allowed to make opening statements along with prosecutors.

Tribunal procedures deny civil party lawyers the right to make opening statements, which typically do not feature in trials under the “civil law” legal system employed by the tribunal.

In a statement Monday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of human rights groups, said this appeared unfair.

“We…consider it inconsistent that civil parties and their lawyers are denied the right enjoyed by the co-prosecutors and the accused, or his lawyers, to make opening statements at the start of the trial,” CHRAC said.


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