Will Duch Be Tried Individually?
Banteay Meanchey: Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, former Bureau S-21’s or Tuol Sleng prison’s commandant, has been detained under the provisional detention order issued by the Co-Investigating Judges of the Khmer Rouge (KR) Tribunal on July 31, 2007. He has been charged with crimes against humanity. The Co-Investigating Judges will continue to investigate and scrutinize Duch’s case. They will look for and check the evidence and receive testimony from living witnesses and victims. By then, Duch will be officially indicted and put on trial by the Co-Prosecutors. However, the question is that: “Should Duch be tried in group with other Khmer Rouge leaders or individually?”
“There will be two legal procedures to be chosen to try Duch, group trial and individual trial,” said lawyers in the Defence Support Section of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) or the KR Tribunal recently. “The decision will be made by the Co-Judges and the Co-Prosecutors.”
A victim who became a Tuol Sleng prisoner without trial and was able to survive Tuol Sleng prison said that it was a great achievement that the hybrid KR court had put Duch, former Tuol Sleng prison's chief, in provisional detention. "The light of justice is glittering in deceased victims' hearts and in fortunate surviving victims' eyes."
"The next thing to do is to investigate on Duch's case and try him with other KR leaders together since the crimes were committed through a structure," said the victim, adding that if Duch was to be tried separately, it would be able to reveal a small case in Tuol Sleng prison only. "Actually, there were 196 prisons, 388 killing fields, and almost 20,000 mass graves left from the KR regime," said the victim. "If tried separately, Duch would put blame on Pol Pot, Son Sen, who were already dead, and other living former KR leaders. Still, the former KR leaders would be finally put on trial together."
However, Aunt Kim, 67, a victim widow who is living in Rumlech, Bakan, said that the Tuol Sleng prison's chief was not commonly known. "So, he should be tried separately first so that we can see how cruel he was and how many people he killed.”
A foreign lawyer talked about the trials in Nuremberg, Germany which tried Adolf Hitler's partisans and members separately. "These individual trials made the court not famous. However, sometime it could have taken longer time and the trials could have continued interminably if it was a group trial."
So far, Cambodia court has tried Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) members together, and the results were satisfying. The lawyer said that the people who decided whether Duch would be tried individually or with other KR leaders were the Co-Judges and the Co-Prosecutors of the KR Tribunal. “This will be at almost the final stage.”
Duch is 62 years old in 2007. He was born in Chi Youk, Kompong Chen Tboung, Stoung, Kompong Thom. Duch pursued his study at Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh and came second in the national mathematics exam. He became a teacher of Mathematics in a school in Kompong Thom. In 1964, he was changed to work in Pedagogy University and became a member of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) in 1970. Then, he was promoted as a senior cadre. From 1979 to 1992, Duch and his family were still working for the assignment KR Angkar in Koh Kong, Somlot, and Thailand.
After the Cambodian Peace Agreement on October 30, 1991, Duch lived in Phkoam, Svay Chek, Banteay Meanchey in the liberate areas in 1992. He worked as a teacher of Mathematics in Phkoam Secondary School. He changed his name to Hang Pin. He was living with his wife and two children. He often went to Battambang provincial town and had relationship with a Christian priest and American Refugee Committee (ARC). In 1993, Duch's family had to abandon their house in Pkhoam since the house was robbed. However, there was no one injured or property lost in the incident. Duch and his family switched to follow Christianity officially on 25 December, 1993. Duch had three purposes: (1) to built school for students and fulfill their hunger, (2). to end his life with the God, and (3) to have the God's influence in every Cambodian people’s soul.
They moved to live in Svay Chek for a while before they moved again to live in Battambang provincial town until the Khmer Rouge integrated with the government in 1996. Duch was working in Somloat a member of American Refugee Committee (AFC).
Duch once gave an interview to Hong Kong-based American "Far Economic Review" magazine, and the interview was issued in June 1999. Then, Duch was arrested by the government and put in prison awaiting trial. In February 2005, Duch was charged with war crimes and crimes against internationally protected persons during the Democratic Kampuchea Regime by the military court. Since 1996, Duch's health has been declining. When he was the head of Tuol Sleng prison, he was under of the order of Son Sen, deputy prime minister for Nation Defence. Duch directed Bureau S-2, where he was in charge of detention, interrogation and execution. All the interrogations and execution were reported to Son Sen, Nuon Chea and Pol Pot. There were 14,000 prisoners of the Angkar killed at Tuol Sleng prison, and only 7 people were lucky enough to be able to survive.
Duch was a teacher who used to live in monastery number 3 in Onar Laom pagoda between 1961 and 1963 and between 1970 and 1973. At that time, everyone knew that Duch was the Khmer Rouge and Kieu (Duch) was close to Sok Tuok (Vorn Vet) and Khieu Samphan. Duch once brought 50 monks to meet Khieu Samphan at the National Assembly to ask the ministry of education to verify monk [education] as equal to general student's certificate so that it would be easy for them to find jobs. Khieu Samphan helped them, but later on Khieu Samphan in turn asked those monks to hold a demonstration against the US.
Duch has 5 names. Kaing Guek Eav or Kieu is his real name. After 1979, while he was fleeing to the western border, Duch adopted another name “Hang Pen”, and when he was working in Phkoam, Svay Chek, he lived under the name “Hang Pin”. In 1993, he changed his name to Prach Prum. He used this name while he was working for American Refugee Committee (ARC) until he was arrested by the government.
Duch have been detained in military court since 1999. In 2005, the military court charged Duch with war crimes and crimes against internationally protected persons during the KR regime.
The military court on July 31, 2007 sent Duch to the ECCC (KR Tribunal), and after questioning on the same date, Co-Investigating Judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde issued a provisional detention order which placed Duch in an air-conditioning detention cell at the ECCC. Duch was preliminarily charged with crimes against humanity. Duch has prepared two lawyers, Cambodian lawyer Kar Savuth and French lawyer Francois Roux, to represent him in hybrid court.
Duch is the first KR leader who has been brought to the KR Tribunal and must be a name among the 5 of the KR leaders to be prosecuted. No matter what to do with Duch, whether to sentence him individually or in group, the KR Tribunal is now moving forward.
-Extracted from Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol. 15, #4361, Sunday-Monday, August 12-13, 2007.