Youk Chhang Helps Iraq Collect Documents

The director of the Documen­tation Center of Cambodia, which has gathered evidence against the form­er Khmer Rouge leadership, re­turned last week from a trip to Iraq where he was assisting in a similar initiative.

Youk Chhang said Monday he had been invited to Iraq by the US State Department, in collaboration with the Coalition Provisional Auth­ority and with the support of the Iraqi Governing Council, to help collect documents that could be used to prosecute members of Sad­dam Hussein’s fallen regime for war crimes and crimes against hu­manity.

“My assistance has been very wel­comed because I am also a survivor,” said Youk Chhang, who lost relatives, including his sister, in the Khmer Rouge’s mass kill­ings. He said people involved in the Iraqi initiative are discussing holding a tri­bunal as early as 2004.

“The most important lesson they should learn from us is not our success but the mistakes we have made, such as, ‘We should not delay this [tribunal] process. We should move on faster,’” Youk Chhang said.

He said that on his visit he located a number of important documents through political party officers and NGO workers who re­mained in Iraq during the US-led in­vasion. These acquisitions could call for the establishment of a Documentation Center of Iraq, Youk Chhang said.

“The idea has been very welcomed by participants,” he added.

He also said that other potential ad­visers, such as human rights act­ivists and veterans of other tribunals, had been invited to help in Iraq, but they had declined be­cause of security fears.

Youk Chhang said that when he was asked if he feared for his safety in Iraq, “I told them I survived the Khmer Rouge.”

Human rights officials in Iraq cur­rently estimate that 300,000 people were exterminated under Hussein’s regime and were buried in 260 mass graves. So far, 40  graves have been identified, Youk Chhang said.

The Documentation Center of Cambodia has estimated that

1.7 million Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

“The number of people who died might be different. The number of mass graves might be different, but the suffering was the same,” Youk Chhang said.

He said he plans to return to Iraq in January to continue assisting the documentation initiative.


Related Stories

Latest News