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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Slow start for KRT's first trial

Slow start for KRT's first trial

Slow start for KRT's first trial

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090331_02.jpg

Duch will not be called to respond to charges for days.

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ECCC POOL

Duch at the ECCC during the first day of his substantive trial Monday.

DEFENCE LAWYERS GO AFTER CORRUPTION 

Defence lawyers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have joined together to request that a report into corruption at the court by a UN oversight body be made public.  Four out of the five defence teams say they agree with a request made by Nuon Chea's team last week, with Ieng Thirith's team agreeing in principle but not signing onto the request.  Richard Rogers, head of the defence section at the court, told the Post that the issue was more urgent than ever now that substantial hearings were under way at the court. "It is a matter of urgency now that the substantive part of the trial has begun....Corruption is always going to be a black cloud over this court's head until it's resolved, whether its this week, next month or next year," he told the Post Monday. "We are hopeful that the judges do what's necessary to ensure that fair trial standards are upheld," he added. Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for Nuon Chea's defence team, said he hoped judges at the court would not dismiss the request on the basis of technicality. "Because of the nature of the request, judges are likely to argue that it falls out of the scope of the introductory submission," he said. "But any legitimate court has the inherent power to protect the fairness of the proceedings," he added. "If this request was thrown out on a technicality, it would be a real dodge," he said. In a summary posted on their website, co-lawyers for Ieng Sary said they were "hopeful that the [office of co-investigating judges] act immediately on this request especially since it coincides with the commencement in earnest of the Duch trial", adding that if judges failed to act promptly on the issue, they would pursue the matter before the pretrial chamber.  A number of civil parties are also expected to join the request. 

PROCEEDINGS at the long-awaited trial of Kaing Guek Eav got off to a deeply symbolic yet fairly brief start Monday, with an opening statement by prosecutors being delayed until Tuesday.

The accused, a 66-year-old former teacher better known by his revolutionary name Duch, stood up and politely greeted the judges with a traditional bow. He then confirmed his various pseudonyms, before sitting solemnly and attentively as judges read out the details of his alleged crimes, including how prisoners at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison he oversaw were subjected to beatings, suffocation and electrocution before being killed.

"Before I was arrested by the military police, I was a teacher in Samlot district," Duch told the court.

"I have already been notified of the charges against me," he added.

Though his indictment had been filed months in advance, Monday was the first time it was read aloud to the court and the defendant, who is on trial for charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and under Cambodian law for the charges of premeditated murder and torture.

Duch is not likely to be called upon to respond to the allegations against him until Wednesday, and witnesses, many of whom were at the court Monday, will not testify until next week.

Bou Meng, one of three survivors from the prison in which up to 15,000 people were tortured and sent to their deaths, was at the hearing but kept a low profile.

"I was angry because they killed my wife, [but now] I am happy because I have a court to try Khmer Rouge leaders," he told reporters before leaving Monday's hearing.

The indictment described how S21, a secret interrogation centre, had an explicit policy to "smash" - a code word for kill - the enemies who were sent there.

It also cited descriptions of the former chief by witnesses, who claimed that "Duch was feared by everyone".

The charges quoted Duch as saying children were "like a blank piece of paper. They could be easily indoctrinated," in reference to his alleged policy of training child guards at the prison.

Co-prosecutor Chea Leang, who ended the hearing by requesting an unbroken two hours for the opening statement, prompted some discontent in the public gallery, with one person shouting that at a cost of millions of dollars, the court should be able to work eight hours.

"If this is the pace in which proceedings will be in the future, there may be some cause for concern," Michelle Stagg Kelsall, a court monitor for the East-West Centre said after the hearing.

Dy Ratha, who was participating in the trial as a civil party, said she was glad proceedings had begun, but was disappointed Duch was not called on by judges.

"What we want is his [Duch] confession of the crime so that we can accept and forgive. Today the trial of Duch is a surprisingly and lesion for the next generation and if there is no trial Khmer Rouge memory in the past will be gone.

Lawyers for Duch told the Post Sunday that he hopes to use his trial to apologize for his role in the 1975-1979 regime.

could be easily indoctrinated”, referring to his alleged policy of training child guards at the prison.

Co-prosecutor Chea Leang, who ended the hearing by requesting an unbroken two hours for the opening statement, prompted some discontent in the public gallery, with one person shouting that at a cost of millions of dollars, the court should be able to work an eight-hour day.

“If this is the pace in which proceedings will be in the future, there may be some cause for concern,” Michelle Staggs Kelsall, a court monitor for the East-West Centre’s Asian International Justice Initiative, said after the hearing.

Dy Ratha, who was participating in the trial as a civil party, said she was glad proceedings had begun but was disappointed Duch was not called on by judges.

“What we want is his [Duch’s] confession of the crime so that we can accept and forgive. Today the court’s [reading of Duch’s indictiment] was shocking and provided a lesson about the regime for the next generation. If there is no trial, the Khmer Rouge and the past will be gone.”

Lawyers for Duch told the Post Sunday that he hopes to use his trial to apologise for his role in the 1975-79 regime.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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