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Cambodia genocide court begins trial of ex-Khmer Rouge leader 'Duch'

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday began the trial [Phnom Penh Post report] of former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] leader Kaing Guek-Eav [TrialWatch backgrounder; court materials]. Kaing, also known as "Duch," faces charges [scheduling order, PDF; JURIST report] of murder and torture in addition to charges [closing order, PDF; JURIST report] of crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions. Kaing is best known for running the Tuol Sleng (S-21) prison camp [Fathom backgrounder] in Phnom Penh in the late 1970s after the Khmer Rouge took over. Out of an estimated 17,000 people imprisoned at Tuol Sleng, there are only twelve known survivors [advocacy website], and the court has encouraged [JURIST report] these and other surviving victims of the regime to testify against its leaders.

The ECCC plans to try as many as eight suspects [JURIST report] for their roles in the Khmer Rouge, but rights groups have warned that the trials could face credibility and corruption [JURIST reports] problems. Judges for the court have denied allegations [JURIST report] of corruption. Last month, Japan announced [JURIST report] that it would give an additional $21 million to the ECCC following an announcement by the court [JURIST report] that it plans to complete operations a year early because of limited funding. In February 2008, a Cambodian genocide survivor testified [JURIST report] against Nuon Chea [PBS backgrounder] at a pretrial hearing, marking the first time a victim has taken the stand against a former Khmer Rouge official.

2/18/09 - Pretrial hearings were held [ECCC press release, PDF] Tuesday and Wednesday. The date for the formal opening of the trial has yet to be set, but some observers expect it to begin in March.

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