Genocide tribunal to question first suspect

A notorious Khmer Rouge prison chief is facing questioning at the Cambodian genocide tribunal headquarters today.

A notorious Khmer Rouge prison chief is facing questioning at the Cambodian genocide tribunal headquarters today.

Kaing Khek Ievto, who headed the former Khmer Rouge prison S-21 in Phnom Penh, will face judges investigating crimes committed during the regime’s rule in the late 1970s, an official said.

He becomes the first suspect to be questioned by judges of the UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh, said tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath.

The prison was a virtual slaughterhouse where suspected enemies of the ultra-communists were brutally tortured before being taken out to killing fields near the city.

Reach Sambath said Kaing Khek Iev, also known as Duch, was driven in a car escorted by Cambodian government security forces and arrived at the tribunal headquarters shortly after 6.10am.

He was taken from a military prison, where he has been detained since 1999.

Kaing Khek Iev, 62, is among five ex-Khmer Rouge leaders the tribunal’s prosecutors have submitted to the co-investigating judges for further investigation, Reach Sambath said.

“They (the judges) need to do an initial interview with him, but he has not been formally charged yet,” Reach Sambath said.

Kaing Khek Iev was being held in an air-conditioned room but not in the tribunal’s detention facility, the spokesman said, adding that “it’s up to the judges to decide” on further action against the suspect.

Some 16,000 people were imprisoned at S-21, now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Only about a dozen of them are thought to have survived when the Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979.

Since his arrest by the government on May 10, 1999, he was detained on war crime charges.

It is unclear what charges he will face before the tribunal, set up jointly by Cambodia and the United Nations to try to seek justice for crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-79 rule.

Some 1.7 million people died from hunger, disease, overwork and execution as a result of the radical policies of the communists.

On July 18, prosecutors submitted to the investigating judges the cases of five former Khmer Rouge leaders they recommend stand trial. The prosecutors did not reveal the identity of the five suspects, citing confidentiality rule.

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