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

DE RUEHPF #0645/01 2440831
R 010831Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Khmer Rouge Tribunal: The Trial of S-21
Interrogation Center Head Kaing Guek Eav, Week 18


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Embassy staff routinely observes the proceedings
of the trial against the notorious Khmer Rouge (KR) torture center
head, widely known as Duch, at the Extraordinary Chambers in the
Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) (Reftel). This report summarizes the 18th
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.

KR's Psychological Legacy, Civil Party Lawyers'
Role Cut Short
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (SBU) The Court wrapped up civil party testimony in Week 18 and
prepared to move to the next phase of the trial, in which witnesses
will testify on the defendant's character. Cambodian psychologist
Dr. Chhim Sotheara gave detailed testimony on the mental traumas
experienced by KR victims. Lamenting the lack of psychiatric and
counseling services in Cambodia, the expert witness noted that the
atrocities committed by the KR regime have had ripple effects on
younger generations. He noted that 40% of Cambodians over the age
of 18 have experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Court also heard procedural arguments from the Defense against
civil party applications and appeals from the civil party attorneys
to be able to question witnesses in the next phase of the trial.
The judges ruled that civil parties would not be allowed to make
submissions on the issue of sentencing, nor would they be allowed to
question remaining witnesses regarding the character of the accused.
The rulings have effectively restricted the substantive roles of
the civil parties until closing arguments.

3. (SBU) Herewith are observation notes for the week beginning
August 24, 2009:

Monday, August 24:

The ECCC Public Outreach office continued to pack the audience, as
witnesses testified in front of another full house, this time
comprised mostly of attendees from Kampong Speu Province.

Final Civil Party Witnesses Testify

Civil party Chhum Noeu testified regarding the deaths of her husband
and son and detailed her own suffering under the Khmer Rouge regime;
she was a former Khmer Rouge cadre who had been imprisoned for two
years at the rural S-24 prison camp. Duch acknowledged that Chhum
Noeu's husband died at S-21 prison. The day's second witness, Ms.
Chhim Navy, described how her husband was arrested in early 1976 and
killed later that year in S-21. Chhim Navy asked the defendant why
her husband was killed and demanded compensation for her lost time
under the regime. Duch recognized Chhim Navy's husband as an S-21
detainee but did not answer her question regarding the reasons for
his execution. The defendant also noted that civil party
compensation was not his decision.

The day's proceedings ran smoothly. There were no interruptions,
and the translation was well done.

Tuesday, August 25:

A large group of observers attended today's trial from Kampong Thom
Province, although most of them had to leave before the trial ended.
There was a small group of staffers from the Trans-cultural
Psychosocial Organization in attendance to observe their colleague
Dr. Chhim Sotheara's testimony.

The Khmer Rouge Legacy on Cambodian Psyches

Chhim Sotheara, a specialist in trauma, stress, and
depression-related disorders, testified that approximately 80%-90%
of survivors of the Khmer Rouge Regime have never consulted with
mental health professionals about their experiences, and as a result
continue to suffer today. Dr. Chhim described how the Khmer Rouge's
destruction of infrastructure, culture, religion, families, and
individuals, as well as the climate of fear and suffering had taken
a large toll on the Cambodian population. He noted that 40% of
Cambodians over the age of 18 have experienced symptoms of
post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Chhim said that the Tribunal
helped Cambodians confront their past and called for the creation of
local reconciliation commissions to aid in the healing of Cambodian
society. The translators struggled at times with some of the
technical medical vocabulary, and Court President Nil Nonn had to
intervene to ensure the translation was accurate.

Wednesday, August 26:

PHNOM PENH 00000645 002.3 OF 002

Approximately 400 observers attended the trial. Over 100 were from
Kampong Speu and Kampong Cham provinces.

Lawyers Clash over Quality of Evidence

No witnesses presented during the day's proceedings. Court
President Nil Nonn announced at the start that the trial would only
last a half-day because an emergency meeting had to take place in
the afternoon. The defense lawyers and the civil party lawyers
spent the morning arguing over use of documents and evidence in
civil party claims. The defense attempted to challenge the civil
party applications of 26 people, claiming that the case files
contained insufficient proof of the parties' kinship to S-21

The proceedings generally ran well, although the electricity was cut
off during the first half of the session. Nil Nonn also had to ask
the civil party attorneys to slow their speech to allow the
interpreters time for proper translation.

The audience remained quiet but interested in the proceedings. One
observer from Kampong Chhnang said that he felt the judgment of each
case had to be based on indirect proof provided by the civil
parties, because little direct evidence remained from the Khmer
Rouge time.

Thursday, August 27:

A mix of observers from Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Cham provinces
attended the trial today. Most of the observers seemed to be below
30 years of age. Several said that their local authorities had
informed them about the trial and that they were eager to attend.

There were no witnesses in the Court today. Instead, the judges
addressed complaints filed by the defense and civil party lawyers
the previous day. As the Court moves to its next phase, in which
witnesses will comment on Duch's character, the civil party lawyers
argued that they should be allowed to question the witnesses. After
adjourning to consult, the judges ruled against the motion, barring
the civil party lawyers from questioning the next round of


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