Cablegate: Khmer Rouge Tribunal: The Trial of S-21

DE RUEHPF #0626/01 2370647
R 250647Z AUG 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Khmer Rouge Tribunal: The Trial of S-21
Interrogation Center Head Kaing Guek Eav, Week 17


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Embassy staff routinely observes the proceedings
of the trial against the notorious Khmer Rouge torture center head,
widely known as Duch, at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of
Cambodia (ECCC) (Reftel). This report summarizes the 17th week of
activities inside the court at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. More
technical accounts of the proceedings can be found at:; and at END SUMMARY.

Emotional Week of Civil Party Testimony

2. (SBU) Several days of angry and emotional testimony marked Week
17, in which civil parties again took the stand to air grievances
over the fates of family members detained at S-21 and later
executed. Several civil parties were given the opportunity to pose
questions directly to the defendant. The overall tone of the
proceedings was more confrontational than in past weeks. The wife
of an executed Cambodian diplomat called Duch's actions
"unforgivable" and suggested he should have committed suicide if he
truly did not want to carry out his duties as head of S-21. New
Zealander Robert Hamill gave some of the most emotionally charged
testimony of the week, describing in detail how he imagined and
hoped that Duch would suffer as Hamill's brother Kerry had suffered
at the prison.

3. (SBU) Herewith are observation notes for the week beginning
August 17, 2009:

Monday, August 17:

Civil Parties Direct Their Anger at Duch

Three civil party witnesses testified today in front of a full
audience of mostly Cham men. French witness Martine Lefeuvre
testified regarding the death of her husband, former Cambodian
diplomat Ouk Ket. Their daughter, Ouk Neary, also spoke. Ouk was a
Cambodian embassy official in Senegal when he was called to return
to Cambodia to help rebuild the country in 1977, after which his
family lost contact. Lefeuvre discovered his confession documents
in S-21 and confirmed his death at the prison.

New Zealander Robert Hamill testified regarding the imprisonment and
execution of his brother Kerry at S-21. Kerry Hamill had been
sailing in the Gulf of Thailand when he was captured by the Khmer
Rouge Navy. Kerry was sent to S-21, tortured until he confessed
that he was a CIA operative, and then executed. Robert Hamill was
very emotional during his testimony, saying angrily that he imagined
and hoped Duch would feel the pain the Hamill family had
experienced, and that Duch would be tortured and "smashed" like
S-21's detainees. At one point when he began using strong language,
the judges had to ask Hamill to abide by the court's internal

Tuesday, August 18:

Approximately 400 observers, mostly from Kompong Thom and Kandal
provinces, observed the day's proceedings, in which four civil
parties testified. The witnesses included Antonya Tioulong,
daughter of former Cambodian Minister of National Defense and acting
Prime Minister Nhiek Tioulong (1962), who testified regarding the
death of her sister and brother-in-law.

Although the trial process ran smoothly, one of the civil party
witnesses seemed to have trouble understanding the translation and
repeated her answers several times. The Court sound system -
usually loud and clear - did not broadcast clearly during Duch's

Wednesday, August 19:

300 observers attended the trial. Most were from Kratie Province.
Several complained that they had not been prepared for the trip to
Phnom Penh and the length of the proceedings; several did not have
money or food with them for lunch, and a Court staffer later
provided them with bread. (NOTE: The ECCC Public Outreach Office
had arranged to provide lunches for several groups transported from
rural areas, but had inadvertently missed a group in this case. END

Civil Parties Have Trouble Keeping Focused

Several civil party witnesses testified regarding the fates of their
family members. One of the witnesses had to be reminded by her
attorney to stay focused on her testimony when she drifted off topic

PHNOM PENH 00000626 002 OF 002

to describe her 20-year marriage before her husband was executed.
However, the dramatic culminating testimony regarding her husband's
fate was all the more powerful for her detailed description. The
wife and daughter of one of Duch's former professors, who was
detained and executed in S-21, also testified.

The translators seemed to have some trouble keeping up with the
wide-ranging and emotional witness testimony. The audience was
generally quiet, although several murmured to each other during one
witness' description of her family's ordeal under the Khmer Rouge
that everyone had suffered the same; the witness' experience was not

Thursday, August 20:

The courtroom was nearly full, with a large group of students from a
youth association in Kandal Province and a group of farmers from
Kompong Thom Province taking up the largest sections. The farmers
said they had left their villages at about 2 AM to take the ECCC
buses to the court.

Three civil parties testified. Mr. Chhum Sirath angrily testified
regarding the detentions and deaths of his two brothers. At times
he veered away from the focus of the questioning as he described how
he had suffered, drifting into discussions of history, poetry, and
religion, until Court President Nil Nonn instructed him to stay on
the topics of questioning. Another civil party, Ou Savorith,
testified via live video conference from Paris regarding the death
of his brother at S-21. The Defense Team requested that the civil
party lawyers provide evidence that Ou Savorith was in fact related
to the individual he claimed to be his brother.

There were several technical issues with the translation system
during the afternoon. Proceedings were stopped for about 10 minutes
mid-afternoon and then again about an hour later, forcing the Court
to end the session early.


© Scoop Media

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