Thursday 29 Sep 2022 | 08:38 | SYDNEY
Thursday 29 Sep 2022 | 08:38 | SYDNEY

Khmer Rouge Tribunal: Sentencing alert

23 July 2010 15:01

Four years after its establishment in July 2006, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (officially the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia) will on 26 July finally bring to a close the trial of the first defendant to appear before it.

This will involve the sentencing of Kaing Guek Euv, better known as Duch, the director of the Tuol Sleng Extermination Centre, where at least 14,000 were killed, mostly after prolonged torture. Duch, who was convicted of crimes against humanity at the end of last year, will probably be sentenced to life imprisonment, despite his final plea to the court for a lesser sentence, based on his time already spent in custody and his admission of guilt, qualified by his claim that he had no other choice than to act on the orders he had been given, since to do otherwise would have led to his own death.

While few will argue against a heavy sentence for Duch, the fact that the sentencing has taken so long makes the court a ready target for criticism.

And to this criticism can be added the doubts held by many, myself included, about the adequacy of a system that is unlikely to bring to trial the other four senior Khmer Rouge figures currently held in custody before 2012, and remains subject to a range of interference from the Cambodian Government.

In the latter regard, efforts by the international prosecutorial team at the tribunal to examine an additional six individuals suspected of having been associated with crimes against humanity during the period of the Khmer Rouge regime have been blocked by the Cambodian Government. This is not surprising given Prime Minister Hun Sen's repeated statements indicating that he wants the tribunal to cease its activities, or at very least to do no more than to try the remaining four defendants held in custody.

Photo by Flickr user SarahFranco, used under a Creative Commons license.