Sunday, October 31, 2010

Challenges of post-conflict justice

Earlier this year, the first sentence was handed down the hybrid national/international court in Cambodia that is attempting to try the leaders of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime three decades after the fact.

The leader of S-21, the detention/torture center in Phnom Penh where at least 12,000 (but more likely closer to 20,000) people were killed was sentenced to 35 years in prison (of which he has already served about 11). However, Kaing Guek Eav (Duch) is now appealing his sentence, arguing that he was not sufficiently high-ranking in the Pol Pot regime to fall within the purview of the Court's mandate.

In the blog section of the New York Review of Books, Stephanie Giry offers a thoughtful analysis of Duch's comportment during his trial — during which he mostly acted remorseful — and of his more recalcitrant actions since.

Her discussion makes clear that the Cambodia Court faces additional challenges above and beyond the already not inconsiderable difficulties inherent in pursuing post-conflict justice elsewhere. First, many potential witnesses have died in the three decades since the Khmer Rouge's were finally overthrown. Second, the court does not have a sufficient budget to do serious investigations, and has been forced to rely on the imperfect efforts of non-governmental organizations. Third, the current regime of Cambodia has been ambivalent at best about the Court's activities.

It is to be hoped that, whatever the final outcome in Duch's case, his testimony will help the Court pursue convictions in the key trials of four top-level Khmer Rouge leaders, which are to begin in 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment