Global Policy Forum

UN Presses for International Tribunal as

Agence France-Presses.
May 10, 1999

Phnom Penh - The United Nations on Monday renewed its call for ex-leaders of the genocidal Khmer Rouge to face a trial meeting strict international standards following the weekend detention of the rebels' former torture chief. However senior court officials said they were still uncertain what to do with Kang Kek Ieu -- better known as Pol Pot's chief of security "Duch" -- recently plucked from his new life as an aid worker and born-again Christian.

UN rights envoy Thomas Hammarberg said Duch must be fully protected after he told reporters he was willing to testify against other surviving leaders of the 1975-1979 "Killing Fields" regime who have since defected to the government. "What is necessary to establish is a trial that would meet the international standards we have in mind," Hammarberg told reporters, referring to UN recommendations made in March for a tribunal such as that for the former Yugoslavia. "It is also very important that he (Duch) is protected," he added, echoing fears that former Khmer Rouge officials may attempt to silence his promised testimony.

Genocide researchers have hailed the promise by Duch to tell all as the filling in of a missing link between thousands of executions in the notorious Tuol Sleng "S-21" prison and the shadowy Khmer Rouge hierarchy. His emergence has also heightened pressure on the government to bring retired rebels to justice, a move that Prime Minister Hun Sen has so far shied away from after dismantling the fading ultra-Maoist rebellion through encouraging defections.

Maintaining the government position that Cambodia's courts could handle any trial, officials Monday refused to speculate on how to deal with one of the Khmer Rouge's most notorious figures. "We have not decided whether to charge Duch as a criminal or treat him as an important witness," said Ngim Sam An, chief military investigating judge. A government official said that with Duch "under protection and not under arrest, the courts are under no obligation to charge him at this stage."

Hammarberg said the UN was ready to help Cambodia put leaders on trial on domestic soil, but only on the strict condition that the government established a legal framework for a special tribunal largely run by foreign expertise. While the government had earlier this year accepted a role for foreign prosecutors and judges, little concrete action in establishing an international-style court has yet been taken.

Officials said Duch remained under wraps in a secret location here after he was detained in the west of the country on Saturday before being whisked to the capital. Duch, 56, was quoted in reports as implicating Pol Pot's number-two Nuon Chea as being behind thousands of killings. Nuon Chea defected to the government in December, enjoying a brief VIP welcome and holiday before moving to peaceful retirement in the west of the country. In an interview with the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review, Duch admitted that he himself committed mass murder as head of the Tuol Sleng "S-21" detention center, a converted Phnom Penh secondary school which has since become a gruesome genocide museum.

Surviving architects of the disastrous regime, which claimed up to two million lives from executions, overwork, starvation and disease, include Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary. They live in retirement in Pailin, the former western stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, following their defections to government ranks. Only former Khmer Rouge military chief Ta Mok -- who was captured in March -- is in detention and facing trial relating to crimes committed during the regime. Pol Pot died in April 1998.

More Information on Cambodia


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.