Justice deferred

2009-02-09 00:00

TWO million people died in the seventies when the Khmer Rouge ran Cambodia. It was Asia’s equivalent of the Holocaust — systematic genocide on an industrial scale across the killing fields into which the entire urban population was forcibly removed.

Its tyrannical architect, Pol Pot, died in 1998. None of the other perpetrators has been held accountable, possibly because ex-Khmer Rouge officials still serve in Cambodia’s government. However, this month Comrade Duch, commandant of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, goes on trial for crimes against humanity before a United Nations tribunal.

Survivors have waited 30 years for the prospect of justice for one of history’s worst atrocities. But the memory and reach of international law are long. This sends a message to African violators of human rights, such as the organisers of the Matabeleland massacre. For the rest of their lives they will all need to look anxiously over their shoulders.

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