Q+A: The Khmer Rouge tribunal
By Darren Schuettler
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia's "Killing Fields" tribunal begins its first trial of a senior Pol Pot cadre on Tuesday, 30 years after the fall of the ultra-Maoist regime blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people.
Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity while chief of the S-21 torture centre, where at least 14,000 died from 1975-79.
Now a Christian, Duch has confessed to atrocities, but insists he was acting under orders. His testimony is expected to be vital to securing the conviction of other senior cadres.
Below are some questions and answers about the tribunal:
Q: Why has it taken so long for the trials to start?
A: Cambodia asked the United Nations and the international community to help set up a tribunal more than a decade ago, but the government sought to retain control of the court. The plan languished for years, with draft laws flying back and forth.
The U.N. gave the go-ahead for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the joint tribunal is known, in 2005.
However, the three-year, $56.3 million (39.5 million pound) court was delayed by bail hearings, appeals and pre-trial machinations. The tribunal has asked donors for a $143 million budget to run until 2010, and raised about $100 million so far.
Q: How does the tribunal work?
A: Experts say the large government and domestic participation in the tribunal will make it a closely-watched "experiment in international justice".
Conducted under a modified form of Cambodia's French-based judicial system, domestic and foreign judges and prosecutors will work jointly to try to guarantee the courts' independence.
Due to Cambodia's erratic and politicised judiciary, the court will seek to ensure no decision can be taken without support from both sides.
The trial chamber of three Cambodian and two foreign judges requires four to agree on a verdict. The seven-judge appeal court -- comprising four Cambodians and three foreigners, must have at least five judges in agreement.
Advocates hope the tribunal will serve as a model of professionalism for the country's judiciary. But critics say its integrity is already threatened by allegations of corruption and political interference, which the government has denied.
Q: Who has been charged so far?
A: Duch is among five ageing and infirm senior cadres facing various charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Tuesday marks the formal start of the trial, but substantive arguments are only expected in March and a verdict in September.
Trial dates have not been set for ex-president Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, and "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea. Pol Pot died in 1998.
If convicted, the five could face life in prison.
Q: Will anyone else be investigated?
A: Cambodia's prosecutor opposed a bid by her foreign counterpart to go after six more suspects, citing the need for national reconciliation. Critics saw a political move to stop the court from digging too deep and perhaps unearthing secrets about some former Khmer Rouge figures in the government.
The government denies meddling and Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander, has said he supports the tribunal. There is no evidence linking him to any atrocities.
More broadly, some critics say the role of the United States and China in supporting Pol Pot's regime should also be probed.
Q: How will it affect Cambodians?
A: Survivors and other civil parties will be allowed to ask questions and file motions through their lawyers. More than 90 parties are expected to be approved by the courts.
Survivors hope the trials will bring closure to their grief, and mark a new era of peace and justice. They also hope it will educate young Cambodians about an era they know little about. More than half the country's 14 million people were born after Pol Pot was ousted in 1979.
Despite an education campaign, a recent survey found 85 percent of respondents "had little or no knowledge" of the tribunal, although court officials disputed its findings.
(Editing by Alex Richardson)
CAMBODIA TOWN FILM FETIVAL 2015 tickets now on sale GET IT NOW!
One of the key purposes of Cambodian Town Film Festival (CTTF) is to highlight the diversity of the Cambodian experience through the art of filmmaking. By specifically featuring films that deal with Cambodian social political conflicts, traditions, challenges and characters, the Festival will deepen Cambodian values and encourage new dialogue on a global scale. THE CLOCK IS COUNTING DOWN TO OUR EVENT >>> BUY TICKETS NOW - CLICK HERE
COLLECTOR DIGITAL ART to Honor the 40 Year Remembrance of the Khmer Rouge's invasion of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The artwork is printed on a high gloss wooden board and make a great wall art decoration. *Collector's Edition - ONLY (40) are printed and signed by the artist. BUY IT NOW (CLICK HERE)
Angkor Wat Starry Night Reprints
Angkor Wat Starry Night Canvas Print 11x17
These are reproduction of an oil painting done by Ponnamy Kiep reprinted on a canvas with a theme inspired by Van Gogh's Starry Night.
In Remembrance of 40 Years CTFF Limited Collector's Edition Dog Tag - Only $10 - CLICK HERE
April 17, 1975 is a day all Cambodians remember. It was the day the Khmer Rouge regime overtook Phnom Penh, an event that ignited a horrific genocide that killed nearly 2 million innocent lives and affected an infinite more.
In rememberance of all those that fought for freedom, those who survived, and those we have lost, Cambodia Town Film Festival has created this Limited Collector's Edition Dog Tag.
PAULINA a film by Caylee So
Now on DVD, own this Award Winning film for only $10 - Click Here
Immersed in a vibrant world where bets and wagers are a part of everyday living, 17 year old Paulina has found herself attracted to the game; a love understood and shared by her father, Sam, and an avid community of Cambodian gamblers. Met with strong disapproval from her sister Sopheap, Paulina remains strongly tied to the community. But soon she finds herself in the midst of her father’s war with addiction, and the realities of this world is unmasked; Paulina must inevitably choose between the world she is drawn to and the life she might someday want.
Secure your VIP ticket today at www.cambodianmusicfestival.com and join us in counting down to a night full of exclusive private performances, music, and art in one of the most breathtaking venues in Laguna Beach!
$200/person - one VIP ticket gives you access to VIP Pre-Party at 7 Degrees in Laguna Beach on Friday, 7/24/15 AND reserved seating within the first ten rows at the Cambodian Music Festival in Anaheim at the Pearson Park Amphitheater on Saturday, 7/25/15.
($50/person - General admission to the Cambodian Music Festival)
**Even though you are purchasing your ticket online, you will still receive your physical ticket in the mail. Ticket must be presented at the day of the music festival to gain entry.