Monday, July 26, 2010

Cambodia Tribunal: 19 Years for 16k Dead

In my genocide class last semester we learned all about the Khmer Rouge regime and their efforts to turn Cambodia into an agrarian collective. The rounding up of people in the capital city of Phnom Penh and moving them out to the countryside was done in such a way where, threatened by the intelligentsia, Pol Pot's regime targeted anyone wearing eye glasses, for their ideology dictated that eye glasses were a sign of having smarts.

The decision today to finally hold one member of Pol Pot's regime accountable for his crimes is a monumental one, coming 31 years after the fall of the regime. It continues the process that was started with Nuremberg, but with fits and starts in between, to hold accountable those who have committed conscience-shocking crimes against their own people. With the advent of the ICC, founded only in 1998 and operationalized only in 2002, it is thought that such atrocities will become less frequent given the court's presence as a major pillar in deterrence, assuming there exists such a thing, which was an argument we had in my Transitional Justice class (what a great field!).

While it's possible to view the decision today as a victory in holding those who have committed unthinkable crimes accountable, 19 years for 16,000 dead gives victims and heirs to victims much less to celebrate. At 67 years old, it is possible that Duch can live to walk out of prison a free man.

In short, Duch was convicted of the crimes against humanity of persecution on political grounds, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, one instance of rape, and other inhumane acts. He was convicted of the war crimes of willful killing, torture, willfully causing great suffering and injury, depriving civilians and prisoners of war of the right to a fair trial, and the unlawful confinement of civilians. 

19 years for that?

More here:

Post-Judgment CTM Interview with Theary Seng from Cambodia Tribunal Monitor on Vimeo.

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