Observers Call for More Prosecutions at Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, last week became the first of five suspects identified by Khmer Rouge tribunal prosecutors to be charged, and already some are demanding that the prosecution reach deeper into the radical Com­munist regime’s ranks.

“Why should we have just five people if there are more than five people who are among the most responsible?” SRP leader Sam Rainsy said, urging the court to prosecute anyone implicated in the atrocities.

Theary Seng, director of the Center for Social Development, argued that the court must prosecute more people to justify its $56 million price tag. “The Cambo­dian population will not be satisfied at five suspects being put in the dock,” she said, adding: “The more people in the dock, the greater the likelihood that a clear accounting of history will be had.”

And despite the start of judicial work—which some skeptics be-lieved would never begin—the tribunal has yet to allay fears that its progress will be determined more by politics than by justice.

“Why do they just charge Duch and a few Khmer Rouge leaders?” Ven Ra, a former Khmer Rouge mem­ber and the niece of Ta Mok, a notoriously brutal Khmer Rouge military commander who died last year, said in an interview from her Pailin home.

Ven Ra, who is also the SRP party chief in Pailin, said that the likely suspects, all top leaders of the re­gime of Democratic Kam­puchea, were “sincere.”

But, she added, “a number of Khmer Rouge cadres betrayed the nation and its people and ordered people to be killed. Why are they not charged? And they are now still working in the government.”

National Assembly and CPP Honorary President Heng Sam­rin, who worked under the Khmer Rouge in the Eastern Zone before leaving for Vietnam in 1978, said that he and other government leaders played a crucial role in overthrowing the Khmer Rouge, for which they deserved gratitude, not jail time.

“Those who rose up against Pol Pot and liberated people from his dictatorship are owed by people, and what need is there for them to be tried?” he said.

He said that it was up to the tribunal to decide whom to charge, but added that “we are people who fought against Pol Pot and we are not guilty.”

ECCC Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng said that the judicial process had only just begun, and declined to address directly the question of whether there would be more than five suspects named.

“Now we have just started. We have charged one and four others we are still investigating,” he said, adding that it was too early to say when—and if—the other four suspects named by prosecutors earlier this month would be charged.

There is no legal limit on the number of individuals the Extra­ordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia may prosecute, but the court is legally restricted to trying the senior leaders and those most responsible for certain grievous crimes committed between April 17, 1975 and Jan 6, 1979.

But co-prosecutor Robert Petit has said he anticipates that as the investigations continue, more suspects will likely be identified.

Co-prosecutor Chea Leang de­clined to address the issue directly. “We have no more right now,” she said.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said by e-mail from London: “The court should go after some of the many mass murderers still walking freely around Cambodia. These decisions should be based on evidence, not political considerations. But it’s not clear whether the court will have the independence or resources to do this.”

The tribunal’s public affairs chief, Helen Jarvis, defended the court, saying that the tribunal’s co-prosecutors are working properly, within the legal jurisdiction of the court.

“They will follow where the evidence leads,” she said.

 

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