A former prison head from Cambodia's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime has appeared in court as judges decide whether to add a new charge against him. 'Duch' was accused of torturing and killing more than 12,000 people at prison S-21.
AFP - Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge prison chief will appear Friday before the country's genocide court as it decides whether to add a new charge that could impact on other regime leaders.
Kaing Guek Eav -- better known as Duch -- was formally indicted in August, accused of overseeing the torture and extermination of more than 12,000 men, women and children when he headed Tuol Sleng prison, known as S-21.
Judges in August ordered the 66-year-old to stand trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
But prosecutors said the indictment failed to go far enough and portray a "full and truthful account" of Duch's crimes.
The court will rule on an appeal Friday, under which prosecutors demanded that the charge of "commission of crimes through participation in a joint criminal enterprise as a mode of liability" be added to Duch's indictment.
The controversial "joint criminal enterprise" charge (JCE) is a legal doctrine that allows a court to hold multiple people responsible for crimes when they act as part of a coordinated process, according to legal officials.
Because of its very nature, the charge is opposed by other Khmer Rouge leaders, who fear that a conviction in Duch's case could leave them automatically liable.
"It makes it a bit easier to hold defendants guilty, because they need not kill someone or order killings themselves to be held responsible," John Ciorciari, a senior legal advisor for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which collects evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities, told AFP earlier this week.
The defence teams of four other former Khmer Rouge leaders who are detained by the court for crimes committed by the regime have expressed fears that the court's decision will affect their clients.
"Duch will sit in the dock in front of judges on Friday afternoon. He will listen to the verdict regarding the closing order," Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath told AFP.
He said once the ruling had been given, Duch's case would be "finalised and it paves the way for the first public trial to take place," adding that the trial chamber will meet in January to set a date for the start of the trial, expected in the first quarter of 2009.
Duch will be the first leader of Cambodia's brutal 1975-1979 communist regime to stand trial at the UN-backed tribunal.
A mathematics teacher who became the Khmer Rouge's torturer-in-chief, he has been in prison since 1999 for his role at Tuol Sleng. He was formally transferred to the tribunal and indicted in July 2007.
Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation and overwork as the regime emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during its rule.
Date created : 2008-12-05