Cambodia indicts first former Khmer Rouge leader

August 12th, 2008 - 10:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Phnom Penh, Aug 12 (DPA) Nearly 30 years after the regime ended, a joint UN-Cambodian court set up to try former Khmer Rouge leaders Tuesday announced it had indicted its first defendant - a former torture centre commandant. “On Aug 8, 2008 the co-investigating judges delivered a closing order… indicting Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, and sending him forward for trial for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 Aug, 1949 (war crimes) as regards his role in S-21,” the court said in a statement.

Duch, the only former leader of five in custody to fully cooperate with the court, was always expected to be the first case to be tried due to the amount of documentary and testimonial evidence left behind at the S-21 torture centre when the Khmer Rouge fled ahead of Vietnamese-backed forces in 1979.

The 66-year-old has admitted he headed former high school turned torture centre “S-21″ and oversaw many of the regime’s prisons, including nearby Prey Sar prison, where thousands more perished.

S-21, now known as Toul Sleng, or poisoned hill, was the Khmer Rouge’s largest and most sophisticated torture facility and an estimated 16,000 men, women and children passed through its gates.

Around a dozen survivors allege a range of atrocities, including prisoners being tortured or hanged using the school’s former playground equipment, or being forced to wear buckets of scorpions on their heads until they “confessed” to being spies.

Duch has been in custody since he was discovered working as a teacher in the provinces in 1999 but was only taken into the custody of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in 2007.

The other four suspects being held by the tribunal are former head of state Khieu Samphan, former chief ideologist Nuon Chea, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, and his wife Ieng Thirith.

They also face charges of crimes against humanity and in some cases war crimes.

Up to two million Cambodians died during the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge Democratic Kampuchea regime in one of the bloodiest reigns of the last century.

The regime’s leader Pol Pot died in 1998.

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