[Dateline: Phnom Penh | Author: UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials]
The UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT) mission provides technical assistance to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and employs more than 100 international staff members (judges, prosecutors and other court staff). The following is a short description of the successful delivery of the final part of the closing arguments for Case File 001 against Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal's first trial against a security prison
chief ended successfully last Friday, thanks to the United Nations'
assistance in the court's judicial and administrative work.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the UN-backed tribunal, held a five-day hearing of closing arguments last week in the trial against Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch who allegedly oversaw interrogation, torture and execution of more than 12,000 prisoners at S-21 during the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot in the late 1970s, ending the eight-month long substantive hearing in the case.
The Duch trial is the first case at the ECCC, which is mandated to try senior leaders and those most responsible for atrocities committed during the period from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979 in Democratic Kampuchea, during which at least 1.7 million people died of starvation, hard labor and execution. Duch is charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder and torture.
In the closing arguments, the prosecution demanded the court hand down a 40-year prison sentence on the grounds that Duch was a chief engineer for merciless acts of interrogation, torture and execution of virtually all the prisoners at S-21, while the accused requested he be acquitted and released as he has already spent 10 years in detention and the tribunal has no jurisdiction to try him because he was neither a senior leader nor the most responsible. The court is expected to render a verdict early next year.
The successful conclusion of the hearing in the Duch trial must be attributed to hard work of both national and international officials and staff. The ECCC was established in early 2006 in accordance with an agreement between the UN and the Cambodian government. It is a Cambodian court with international participation where UN-nominated international judges work with Cambodian counterparts. The UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT) provides both substantive and technical support to the court, from case management to information technology to assistance to victims and defense teams, and currently employs one third of all the court's 400 judicial and administrative staff.
Acting Director of Administration, Tony Kranh, and Deputy Director Knut Rosandhaug, also Coordinator for UNAKRT, issued last Friday a joint statement commending the good work. "We have witnessed today, at the end of the year, a successful delivery of the final part of the closing arguments for Case File 001," the joint statement read. "There is no doubt that, with the same level of professionalism and team work, we can bring the ECCC to a rewarding ending for the people of Cambodia."
The court's second case against four other senior leaders is currently at the judicial investigation stage and is expected to go on trial as early as late next year. In addition, the international co-prosecutor has requested investigation against five additional suspects.