Democratic Kampuchea policy of forced marriage is crime against humanity that requires investigation, say civil party co-lawyers.
A monk examines photos of former inmates at Phnom Penh's Tuol Sleng prison. Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal on Tuesday opens the long-awaited trial of the Khmer Rouge's former prison chief Duch, the first person to face justice for the horrors 30 years ago.
CO-LAWYERS for civil parties at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have urged the court to open new investigations into the role of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav in organising "forced marriages", a crime that has been recognised as a new, separate crime against humanity by international law.
In a press statement released over the weekend, lawyers said that there was sufficient evidence to link the prison chief, known by his communist name Duch, to organising "at least one mass wedding", and that it was thus necessary for the court to conduct "immediate and serious supplementary investigation".
"Since at least early 1977 ... weddings and prescription of sexual intercourse of couples were ordered and organised by senior leaders all over the country.
Forced marriages were clearly carried out as a matter of state policy," their submission to the court outlined.
"They were used statewide as a measure to weaken and attack Cambodian
families, to produce more children to join Angkar's revolution and to control sexuality and reproductive power," it said.
"Hence, the crimes were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against the civilian population."
The crime of forced marriage, as it is linked to rape and enslavement on a mass scale, is a type of sexual violence that is punishable as a crime against humanity.
One of its main purposes, in light of the Khmer Rouge's intent to form a new society, was the intention of Democratic Kampuchea to have forced pregnancies.
"According to researchers,"[t]he leader of DK wanted to make sure that children were born who could continue the revolution. The main purpose of weddings, for the Khmer Rouge, was not to form family units, but to produce children who could serve the revolution," the submission said.
"The entire population that was not yet married and over 18 years old was a target of the attack," it added.
According to the lawyers' submission, Sierra Leone's war crimes court is the only international tribunal to have recognised forced marriage as a crime against humanity.
"The UN secretary general defined a forced marriage as one that ‘lacks free and valid consent of at least one of the parties'.
"In its most extreme form, forced marriage can involve threatening
behaviour, abduction, imprisonment, physical violence, rape and, in
some cases, murder," the submission says.
"In light of the development in other international and
internationalised tribunals including gender-related crimes in their
jurisdictions, the ECCC should follow other Courts and recognise the
dimension of such crimes and their impact on society," it adds.
Although the 67-year-old's trial begins Tuesday, lawyers say additional investigations would not delay proceedings.
"Investigations can be conducted besides the ongoing trial. This is a
normal procedure," international co-lawyer for civil parties Silke
Studzinsky told the Post.
She added that despite being a crime against humanity, forced marriages had not yet been properly investigated.
"Sexual violence, such as forced marriage, was never seriously
investigated by this court. This approach is common in all courts - to
neglect these crimes is typical," she said, adding that there were many
reasons for this.
"There is a common perception that these crimes did not happen under
the Khmer Rouge, so witnesses have never been asked about these
issues," she said.
Co-lawyer for Duch, Francois Roux, said he welcomed the new
submissions, but was unsure if it would be accepted by the trial
"I think the civil parties can request the new accusation as they want,
but it is the Trial Chambers' job to make a decision," he told the
Duch is currently charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity,
along with domestic charges of premeditated murder and torture.