The Guardian carries a report about the opening (at last) of the first trial of a key Khmer Rouge butcher. Kaing Guek Eav, 66, better known as Duch, sat in the dock behind a bullet-proof screen in a court that was purpose-built to house the UN-backed genocide trial.
Duch was the Khmer Rouge regime’s head torturer in a regime that left 1.7 million Cambodians dead.. He is accused of war crimes crimes against humanity for his role in the deaths of at least 12,380 prisoners at Phnom Penh's notorious Tuol Sleng torture centre. Duch, a born-again Christian who has acknowledged his crimes, sat impassively in the court. Wearing a pale blue shirt, he occasionally sipped water and donned his reading glasses to take notes of the proceedings translated through his headphones.
Van Nath, 63, one of only a handful of survivors to emerge from Tuol Sleng, took his place in the queue to witness a day he long remained sceptical he would ever see."This is the day we have waited for for 30 years," said the artist, who was beaten by Tuol Sleng guards but spared because of his painting talent. "But I don't know if it will end my suffering."
Duch is the first of five defendants to appear before the long-delayed tribunal. Although he has made no formal confession, he has, unlike the other defendants, "admitted or acknowledged" that many of the crimes occurred at his prison, according to the indictment from court judges. He has also asked for forgiveness from his victims.
In an indictment in August the tribunal said: "Duch necessarily decided how long a prisoner would live, since he ordered their execution based on a personal determination of whether a prisoner had fully confessed" to being an enemy of the regime. In one mass execution, he gave his men a "kill them all" order to dispose of a group of prisoners. On another list of 29 prisoners, he told his henchmen to "interrogate four persons, kill the rest".
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Duch disappeared for two decades, living under two other names and as a converted Christian before he was located by a British journalist in 1999.
Taken to the scene of his alleged crimes last year, he wept and told some of his former victims: "I ask for your forgiveness. I know that you cannot forgive me, but I ask you to leave me the hope that you might." I put up a post about this last year called the The Tears of Comrade Duch.
His defence lawyer, Francois Roux, said today that his client had been in detention for nine years, nine months and seven days, adding: "This situation is unacceptable." (Duch’s victims spent a much shorter time in detention of course....)
The other four facing trial are Khieu Samphan, the group's former head of state; Ieng Sary, its foreign minister; his wife, Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs; and Nuon Chea, the movement's chief ideologue.
My gut says tear the piece of human garbage limb from limb very slowly. My head as ever wishes him a long, miserable and very uncomfortable incarceration.