Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A former Khmer Rouge leader responsible for the Cambodian genocide between 1975 and 1979 has finally been brought before an international tribunal. Duch, whose real name is Kang Kek Ieu, headed a special unit of the secret police and had been held in a military prison since 1999.
Last month prosecutors recommended to the court that five former Khmer Rouge leaders stand trial on charges of “crimes against humanity, genocide, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, homicide, torture and religious persecution.”
Formal charges have not been filed against Kang but he is the only Khmer Rouge leaders to have been arrested. He faced investigating judges at a closed-door.
His lawyer, Kar Savuth, said that Kang was not guilty of any crimes and was only following “verbal orders from the top.”
Reach Sambath, a tribunal spokesman, said the judges would first conduct an initial interview with the defendant before deciding on further action.
The United Nations and Cambodia agreed to a complex joint tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders but it has been a slow go, raising doubts about Cambodia’s commitment. The process has been underway for a year, with prosecutors compiling cases against suspects.
In the meantime Pol Pot died in 1998, followed by another leader, Ta Mok, in 2006.
Other leaders like Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan and Foreign Minister Leng Sary are still free, albeit in bad health.