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Duch Verdict Announced in Cambodia: Public Forum Brings Together Victims of Khmer Rouge

August 4, 2010

Last week, after much anticipation, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) issued the verdict in case 001 in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The trial found Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known under his alias “Duch” – the warden of Tuol Sleng prison, or S-21 – guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The guilty verdict was not a surprise, but the sentence – 35 years, reduced for time served to 19 years – surprised some, and enraged others who said it wasn’t long enough for someone who had admitted to overseeing the torture and deaths of 16,000 people. The process of the first trial, criticized as being marred by corruption, political manipulation, infighting within the court, and other issues, has not been perfect, but the verdict has tremendous meaning for people in Cambodia. Case 002, the trial of Nuon Chea, known as “Brother Number 2,” and three other surviving key Khmer Rouge leaders, is slated to begin next year.

The Asia Foundation continues to support public education efforts in Cambodia, such as a recent public forum, organized by the Center for Justice & Reconciliation, which brought together Khmer Rouge victims, Tuol Sleng survivors, and members of the ECCC to discuss the advent of the Duch verdict. CJR founder Theary Seng blogs about the event. Events like these are important to long-term reconciliation efforts in Cambodia. They also raise awareness of the younger generation in Cambodia, among whom the history of the Khmer Rouge period is not well known. At such a historic moment for Cambodia, and with such strong memories and emotions in the room, it was inspiring to be in a conference hall with hundreds of university students learning the history of Cambodia first-hand from the victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge.

Gavin Tritt is The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Cambodia. He can be reached at gtritt@asiafound.org.

View all posts by Gavin Tritt

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