Khmer Rouge's Duch set for trial
By Guy Delauney
BBC News, Phnom Penh
Duch ran a Khmer Rouge prison where almost all inmates were killed
A former Cambodian prison chief accused of presiding over thousands of murders will be the first person to go on trial at country's Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, faces charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
He ran Tuol Sleng prison, where detainees were tortured and executed.
As many as two million people are thought to have died during the four years of Khmer Rouge government in the late 1970s.
Two years have passed since work officially started on bringing the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge to justice.
There have been numerous delays and controversies, but the formal indictment of Duch is a sign of the progress the tribunal has made.
A spokesman called it "an important moment in the history of the courts".
Putting the former prison chief on trial will give a boost to the credibility of the process.
Duch was in charge of the notorious facility known as S-21 or Tuol Sleng, where about 15,000 prisoners were systematically tortured.
Those who survived the ordeal were sent for execution in the so-called "killing fields".
Officials have indicated that Duch cooperated with the investigating judges and is willing to testify in court.
So the trial should be a chance for survivors of the Khmer Rouge era to hear directly at last from one of the organisation's key figures.
Progress on the judicial side is also a welcome distraction from the tribunal's many problems.
Donors are withholding promised funds because of corruption allegations and local staff have been working without pay.
* WHO WERE THE KHMER ROUGE?
- Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979
- Founded and led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998
- Abolished religion, schools and currency in a bid to create agrarian utopia
- Up to two million people thought to have died from starvation, overwork or execution
Here's a report of what Fan Yew Teng had written about the case:
A Critique of the National Human Rights Commission
by Fan Yew Teng
As one of the NGO representatives involved in a two-day discussion session, in Kuala Lumpur sometime in 1996, with representatives from the National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines to explore the possibility of putting in place a regional mechanism to protect and promote human rights in Southeast Asia, I am pleased that, at long last, a National Human Rights Commission has been established in Malaysia.
However, I am disappointed with the composition of the Commission. As I had commented last year, in response to a question from a local daily newspaper, our Human Rights Commission, like those in other countries, should have as little to do with politicians of all creeds and shades, and that it should not only be fully and truly independent of the government of the day but be seen to be so.
This is a very fundamental point which is of the utmost importance and relevance, as it has to do with, from the very beginning of its existence, the Commission's perceived as well as actual independence and credibility.
Aren't we seeing two or perhaps three members of the Commission who are regular singers of praises for the government? And, why, for instance, was no former national trade union leader of integrity appointed to the Commission?
Now, I have nothing personal against Musa Hitam, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. Obviously, he has done some signal services for the government and for UMNO in particular and for the Barisan Nasional in general. However, let us not forget that it was Musa, in his capacity as Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister who gave the green light to the police to storm and open fire at demonstrators in Memali village in the State of Kedah on 19 November 1985, resulting in 18 Malaysians –14 villagers and 4 policemen – losing their lives, with many others injured seriously.
As far as I know, Musa has never apologised for this atrocity, which was of course a grave violation of human rights. Has he ever felt remorse for the Memali bloodbath of which he was personally, professionally and politically responsible? After all these years of being rewarded by Prime Minister Mahathir as a so-called special envoy to the United Nations, has Musa ever felt contrite about the Memali Massacre?
Calls at the time for an independent Commission of Inquiry into the Memali Tragedy were rejected by Musa and Mahathir. The public forum on Memali promised openly and solemnly by then Information Minister Rais Yatim was never honoured.
Because there has never been a public and thorough accounting of what happened in Memali on 19 November 1985, one of the first tasks of the newly established National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia should be to conduct a no-holds-barred hearing – along the lines of the Truth Commission in South Africa – on the Memali Tragedy, with Musa as the chief witness. This would be a true litmus test of the independence, credibility and seriousness of our National Human Rights Commission. We as a people and as a nation cannot and should not allow a crime against humanity to be so easily forgotten, let alone forgiven.
Musa is not the right person to head our National Human Rights Commission on other grounds as well. He has never hinted, let alone suggested or advocated, that highly repressive and obnoxious laws in Malaysia like the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act, the Police Act and the Universities and University Colleges Act be abolished because they are an indecent affront to human dignity and basic human rights.
Moreover, Musa is still very much a most loyal UMNO hack, often dispensing his wisdom on how UMNO should be better run and by whom. Consider, for instance, the front-page banner headline news in The Sun on Sunday of 20 February 2000 from Johor Baru that Musa had "openly supported Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi" for UMNO's deputy presidency.
According to the report, Musa said that he would like to see Abdullah move up as party president and Prime Minister. He was reported to have said, while speaking at the opening of the Johor Baru UMNO division's annual general meeting, that "Abdullah has proven his loyalty and shown patience in facing the challenges throughout the time he has been a member."
Musa's right to his political inclination is not in dispute here. However, what is being disputed is his pretence that he is politically neutral. Some people outside UMNO – including some Opposition leading lights – even naively believe in the superstition that Musa has transcended national party politics! How and since when?
Musa's recent Johor Baru statement, as cited above, goes to show that he is still very much a party political partisan. Appointing a loyal, party political partisan to head our National Human Rights Commission is a farce at best and a great disservice to human rights at worst. It is a far cry from India, for instance, where Justice J.S. Verma, a highly respected former Chief Justice of India, was appointed as the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission there at the end of last year.
By the way, is K. Pathmanaban still a loyal and active member of the MIC, an obedient junior partner of UMNO?
Firstly, why must complaints and other communications to our National Human Rights Commission be sent to the Foreign Ministry still? When will the Commission have its own office, postal address, its own staff and its own facilities? And, of course, its own initiatives?
Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and now made Tun Musa Hitam. He ordered the Memali massacre.
So, for all that our nation speaks about injustice in the international arena, things aren't exactly squeaky clean here as far as these mass murders and massacres of innocent Kg.Memali villagers are concerned?
Here in Bolehland, mass murderers seem to be honored and decorated with prestigious titles and given a handsome pension to boot whilst the poor dead Kg.Memali villagers are forgotten over the passage of time and no restitution is made for their grieving families and survivors made orphans by that horrible blot in our nation's history.
Maybe its true that over here in the Kingdom of Malaysia, cucumbers remain the victim no matter what because the durians in power will rock and roll as they damn well please without a care in the world?
Those who can read and understand Malay, would want to read up on this massacre here and here.