Death of Khmer Rouge leader may call genocide trials into question

[JURIST] Following the death of former Khmer Rouge [JURIST news archive] military leader Ta Mok [Trial Watch profile] Thursday, local observers say that with few top Khmer Rouge officials left to be prosecuted before the new Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal [task force website; timeline] scheduled to begin holding trials next year, the process may already be in trouble.

Former head of state Khieu Samphan and Foreign Minister Ieng Sary are in poor health and have not been indicted by the genocide tribunal, leaving only Kaing Khek Iev, aka Duch, to face charges [PDF indictment; PDF detention order] before the court. Iev ran the Toul Sleng interrogation center and prison, where he is accused of overseeing the killings of thousands of Cambodians. Last June, the former Khmer Rouge health minister Thiounn Thioeunn [DC-CAM profile] also died. VOA has more.

Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia [advocacy website] who has been compiling evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities for nearly a decade, says that Ta Mok's death will cause Cambodians to call the process into question. Ta Mok's lawyer has noted, however, that half of his confession remains on record, and massive collections of forensic evidence will also support the prosecution of those defendants who are still alive. Over the past decade, Youk Chhang and his staff have collected over 600,000 pages of prisoner confessions and documents, over 20,000 mass grave sites, 189 prisons, over 6,000 photos from the Khmer Rouge era, 200 documentary films, and over 4,000 transcribed interviews with former Khmer Rouge soldiers. Earlier this week DC-CAM's documents were transferred to the ECCC. After the documents were moved, Youk Chhang said, "It's a very special feeling now. When you told people what you do, they would say, 'you've been talking about the tribunal for six or seven years.' They didn't believe it would ever happen."

As to Ta Mok, a Cambodian human rights activist who was the only member of his family to survive after the Khmer Rouge took power when he was in his late teens said this to me today: "You are right, it is bad for the tribunal, but it is good that he is dead. He is, how do you say in English, the worst person."

Andrew Wood is an Associate Editor for JURIST working in Cambodia this summer.

 

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.