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Justice in Cambodia?

August 6, 2010

Justice in Cambodia? 

Following up our thread on the Cambodian War Crimes trials, check out Heather Ryan’s thoughtful July 28, 2010, analysis on the Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute Blog. Her starting point is the reaction of victims to what they see as a light sentence handed out to Kaing Guek Eav (usually called Duch, or Doik), the first of the Khmer Rouge war criminals to be tried and convicted. Duch was the warden of the Tuol Sleng prison camp where more than 12,000 Cambodians were tortured and murdered.
            What’s different from most of the coverage I’ve seen, though, is that she takes off from there to analyze what would really constitute appropriate justice in such a case – from the perspectives not only of the victims, but of international judicial precedent. She concludes: 

“…the controversy about this trial’s outcome should not overshadow its significance. This was the first public trial against a defendant deeply involved in the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Close to 30,000 Cambodians attended a portion of the proceedings in person, and millions more Cambodians watched on television. The trial’s most important contribution may not be time Duch spends behind bars, but the catalyzing effect this event has had in generating discussions about justice, impunity, and the history of the Khmer Rouge. Real justice and accountability is never possible in silence.”

 The article deserves a close reading, and I would welcome reactions and comments by our readers.

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