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Accusations of bias on KRT expert’s final day

Visitors watch from the gallery as expert witness Ysa Osman concluded his evidence yesterday. ECCC
Visitors watch from the gallery as expert witness Ysa Osman concluded his evidence yesterday. ECCC

Accusations of bias on KRT expert’s final day

Expert witness Ysa Osman concluded his four-day long testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, undergoing a final round of cross-examination from all parties.

Osman, author of The Cham Rebellion and Oukoubah, has previously detailed and commented on evidence of systematic identification, gathering and killing of the predominantly Muslim Cham ethnic minority during the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

Osman has also testified extensively on the bloody suppression of Cham uprisings in 1975 by East Zone military forces; all of which relate to the genocide charges against co-defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in the ongoing Case 002/02.

Samphan defender Anta Guisse cross-examined Osman in the morning, confronting him with incongruent elements of testimony and documentary evidence to the point that Osman was forced to address the finer points of translation with regards to a telegram of instructions to arrest Cham and other targeted groups.

Guisse then levelled that Osman’s interpretation of documentary evidence was biased by what he “might want to demonstrate”, and was “not based on the objective information” in the documents.

“That is not the case. You can say whatever you want, [but] for me, I authored the book based on documents, based on the accounts of people I interviewed and my analysis based on my professional ability,” Osman replied.

In the afternoon, prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian revisited alleged massacres of Cham that took place during the last years of the regime.

“A large number of Cham were transferred from the East Zone after the Cham stood up and rebelled” in 1975, Osman said, adding that they were transferred to Stung Treng and Kampong Thom provinces, where they were killed along with local Cham populations.

Starting in late 1977, the Cham, despite having ostensibly renounced Islam and being dispersed throughout the country, “were accused of being enemies and later on killed”, Osman continued. Some Cham survived, he later said, because they lied that they were Khmer upon interrogation.

Finally, Guisse pointed out there were Cham in the Khmer Rouge ranks.Osman countered that while Cham were found as high as district-level authorities, they were used to gather information on the Cham, and “usually those Cham people were illiterate”, and ultimately exploited to assist in the process of extermination.

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