On February 17, 2009, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) opened its trial of Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Guek Eav, whose alias is Duch, for atrocities committed in Cambodia between 1975 to 1979.
Since the ECCC was instituted, there have been various allegations, especially regarding corruption in the court and underfunding, which could have substantial implications for the justice that Cambodians seek from the trial.
Consequently, two public opinions have arisen: to endorse the Khmer Rouge tribunal or to eliminate it, largely because the Cambodian people will never benefit from it.
As the court is still in its infancy, it would be hard to speculate to what extent the Cambodian people would enjoy the benefits. At least, the trial has unveiled the faces of the atrocity-committers and the international human rights violations they have committed, as well as the accountability to which they will be held.
In addition to the offences of homicide and torture under Cambodian criminal law, Duch is now facing the charge of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. And certainly, there will be punishment for these human rights and legal violations. One of the goals of international law is to make the public aware of international law itself, the penalties arising from violations of these international laws and, finally, the mandate of "never again".
Justice is permanent and timeless. Justice does not discriminate on the basis of physical appearance or age. Justice plays no favourites. And finally, justice is the precedent for future justice.
The trial of the Khmer Rouge leadership is upholding all of these legal principles.
The opinions expressed in this letter represent the personal views of the author and are not reflective of the views of any entity to which the author is affiliated.
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