The first trial of a Khmer Rouge leader commenced on Tuesday. Kaing Guek Eav, 66, known as Duch, was a commandant of Security Prison 21, where he was allegedly involved in sending 14,000 Cambodians to their death. Duch is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes and faces Cambodia’s maximum of life imprisonment. The case, the first of what human rights activists hope will be at least three trials, will be decided by a UN-backed hybrid tribunal consisting of both Cambodian and foreign judges and prosecutors. Meanwhile, four additional Khmer Rouge leaders await their trial, which will likely not proceed until next year.
Human rights activists have expressed concern that the Cambodian government has mixed interests and wants to shield the former Khmer Rouge leaders in its own ranks. The Khmer Rouge, regime, led by Pol Pot, lasted from 1975 to 1979 and is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people.