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Exhibition tells civil-party stories

Exhibition tells civil-party stories

A ROVING exhibition highlighting the role victims have played at the Khmer Rouge tribunal launched in Phnom Penh yesterday as part of a campaign to increase public interest as the verdict in Case 001 approaches.

The exhibition, organised by local NGO Youth for Peace, with support from several other civil society groups, includes text and images highlighting some of the most dramatic moments in the case, that of former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch. The verdict is scheduled to be read on July 26.

Chhit Muny, YFP programme manager, said the exhibition would be taken to at least six provinces – Takeo, Kampot, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Kampong Cham and Pailin – over the next two weeks.

One of the key messages it is intended to convey, he said, was that the participation of around 90 direct and indirect victims as civil parties in the case helped ensure that the tribunal stayed connected to the general public.

“It is important because their participation brings a lot of discussion in the community,” he said, and added that he believed victim participation had also allowed for a more balanced case.

“Without their participation, there would not be realistic justice,” he said.

Heng Gekhong, a 50-year-old civil party from Kandal province who attended yesterday’s exhibition launch, said her father, Sok Heng, was killed after being detained at Tuol Sleng. She said she hoped Duch received a life sentence, the maximum allowed under Cambodian law.

“I and other victims will not be satisfied if Duch is at large,” she said.

Heng Gekhong said she applied to be a civil party for Duch’s trial because she wanted to be kept informed about the case, and because she wanted to receive some form of reparations for the suffering she endured as a result of the regime.

“I want to know how Duch’s trial is going, and I want financial compensation from the Khmer Rouge tribunal,” she said.

The tribunal is not able to administer individual reparations, but is instead tasked with considering possibilities for “collective and moral” reparations.

In September, civil party lawyers submitted a joint request on behalf of their clients requesting free medical care, the erection of memorial pagodas and the dissemination of apologies from Duch, among other things.

The tribunal said at the time that a decision on reparations would likely be announced at the same time as the verdict.

Yesterday, however, UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said he could not comment on whether a decision on reparations would be forthcoming, as judges had forbidden comments on “hypothetical” outcomes of the case.

“I cannot discuss the outcome of the verdict before it has been handed down,” he said.

“This is prejudging what may or may not come.”

Reach Sambath, chief of the public affairs section at the court, also said he could not comment on whether reparations would be announced along with the verdict, but emphasised that no individual civil parties would be eligible for financial compensation.

“We don’t know what the judges will decide, but according to the internal regulation of the courts, there will be moral and collective reparations, no individual reparations.”

He added that the participation of victims was more significant than any reparations that might be awarded.

“The suffering of the people was very great,” he said.

“We don’t know how any reparations can fill in these gaps.”

Nget Uy, a 53-year-old civil party participant from Kampong Thom province who also attended yesterday’s event, said she did not care about reparations. Instead, she said, she merely wanted to see the leaders of the regime brought to justice.

“I want not only Duch but all Khmer Rouge leaders in prison for their activities,” she said.

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