Known as Duch, ex-prison head will be first of five former regime leaders to be prosecuted in UN-backed Khmer Rouge trials
FORMER Khmer Rouge S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav was formally indicted Tuesday as tribunal judges sent their first case to trial in a landmark moment in Cambodia's quest for justice.
Kaing Guek Eav, who is more commonly known by his revolutionary name Duch, has been charged with crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention over his alleged role at Tuol Sleng, the regime's most notorious torture centre where more than 16,000 men, women and children were imprisoned and brutalised during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule over Cambodia.
In a statement, Cambodia's Extraordinary Chambers said that co-investigating judges had presented a closing order on Duch last Friday, bringing to an end his lengthy pretrial proceedings. The prosecution now has 15 days to appeal the indictment if, for example, they feel it is too broad or to vague.
The development signals a positive step for the tribunal, which has been fraught with delays and graft allegations that are now under review by the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight in New York.
Observers, however, warned that the indictment of Duch, who is the youngest of five former Khmer Rouge leaders detained by the UN-backed court, was just another step in a lengthy legal journey.
"I hope that the ECCC does not see this as a success story," said genocide researcher Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia which has been collecting evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities. "I hope they [the ECCC] are prepared to cope with high public expectations, and higher expectations from the victims."