Tuesday, February 17, 2009


(Graffiti art in S21, it says #codefc stuDIED here 1975-1979)

30 years after the end of the genocide, 10 years after his arrest, the trial of "Comrade Duch", commander of S21 prison (Tuol Sleng) has started.

Can justice ever be achieved with so little so late?

"The death penalty, which Duch ordered at least 12,380 times, does not exist in United Nations-backed tribunals like this one. His condemnation will not have the too-familiar instantaneousness of the Khmer Rouge hoe striking the back of the neck, but his sentence will be long and relentless.

The worst that he risks, however, is not imprisonment itself, but seeing his reasons for living disappear. His life now revolves around the visits from his children, a right that was denied to his victims, and his faith in the judicial process — a process that did not exist at Tuol Sleng." Says Francois Bizot, French Buddhism scholar turned Western prisoner of Duch.

In fact, it seems that the only appropriate sentence for this mass murderer is the exact opposite of the death penalty; allowing Duch to continue to live while denying him the reasons for life.

The trial, sadly, serves more a symbolic purpose than it does any real justice. However, along the lines of "never again", I believe the trial is important as far as International Law is concerned. It will test the international judicial system, establishing whether one can feasibly bring justice to those who have betrayed their own species. It will hopefully encourage humankind to enshrine "never again", not only in their hearts and minds, but in law.

Bizot notes:
"Let us not fool ourselves. Beyond the crimes that Duch committed against humanity, those of the Khmer Rouge will also be judged. And beyond the crimes of the Khmer Rouge, the capacity of the tribunals to mete out justice will be tested, as well as our ability to judge man himself, and history."

The above quoted article can be found here.

More on Cambodia here.