Cambodia: End of first Khmer Rouge Tribunal deemed a relative success

Many in the international community are calling the first Khmer Rouge Tribunal trial of Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, a relative success as the trial closed. The Open Society Justice Initiative recently issued a report that the trial “generally satisfied international standards of fairness and due process.” However, according to the report, there have been indications that Cambodian government officials may not participate in future cases, making it difficult to conduct a fair trial for the four Khmer Rouge members awaiting trial: Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.

One marker of success is found in the fact that Cambodians finally had a forum through which they could share their stories. The Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia (ASRIC) collected survivors’ testimonies in cities across the United States for use in the Khmer Rouge trials. Below is a video of ASRIC at work:

The Tribunal also increased worldwide awareness of the Khmer Rouge, including this article, which profiles several Cambodians. One of those profiled is Bou Meng, a survivor of the S-21 prison Duch headed, who sought closure in the trial:

For [Meng], having a former S-21 staffer tell him where his wife was killed and buried would also bring a good deal of closure. He cannot perform a traditional Cambodian cremation because it would be too difficult to identify her bones. But, Bou Meng told Duch at the tribunal, if he could find out where she spent her final moments, he would ‘go to that location to get the soil from there to pray for her soul.’

However, neither the staffer nor Duch could remember where Meng's wife spent her last moments.

Another survivor is Dr. Sophal Ear, who fled the Khmer Rouge as a child and is now a professor and TED fellow. Dr. Ear shares his reaction to Duch's trial with a memory of his mother:

I never entirely understood the saying ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ With my mom's passing at age 73, before she ever saw a single defendant serve a prison sentence, I now understand.

Duch, who had offered his apology during the trial, has now asked for the charges against him to be dropped.

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