Monitor says Khmer Rouge trial is likely to run beyond schedule
April 29, 2009
An international monitor at Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal warned Wednesday that the first trial before the cash-strapped court could run much longer than scheduled because of delays in proceedings. In its weekly report on the progress of the trial of former torture prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known by his revolutionary alias Duch, the US-based War Crimes Studies Center said the trial had been weighed down by procedural arguments and only a handful of witnesses had been called to testify.
"The initial estimates of the trial completing in 12 weeks now seem somewhat unrealistic," the report said. "Given the chamber is yet to hear an estimated 49 further witnesses, proceedings may continue till at least the end of 2009."
The long-awaited trial began in March, and Duch faces charges of crimes against humanity, torture, premeditated murder and breeches of the Geneva conventions, allegedly committed while he was the warden of the S-21 torture prison during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule.
At least 15,000 men, women and children were imprisoned, interrogated and tortured at the school-turned-prison in Phnom Penh's suburbs before being murdered at the Choeung Ek "killing fields" on the outskirts of the capital.
In his opening address at the trial in March, the 66-year-old former mathematics teacher apologized to S-21 victims, their families and the country but asserted that he was merely following the orders of his superiors.
The trial was scheduled to conclude on July 2, but judges made a provision in the schedule to extend the hearing if necessary.
Tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis said she had not read the War Crimes Studies Center report but said judges would release a revised schedule for the trial at the end of the week.
"It is hard to project from the first few weeks how long these things will run, but we are hopeful that the trial will follow the schedule closely," she said.
According to the War Crimes Studies Center, which is based at the University of California at Berkeley, translation errors were also hindering the court's progress.