Brother of Kiwi tortured and killed 'not surprised' at convictions

Brother of Kiwi tortured and killed 'not surprised' at convictions
Photo credit: The AM Show.

The brother of a New Zealander tortured for months then murdered by the Khmer Rouge says he is "not surprised" that two of the communist party's leaders have been found guilty of genocide and war crimes.

Former New Zealand Olympic rower Rob Hamill's brother Kerry was captured by the Khmer Rouge when the yacht, on which he and friends were sailing, strayed into Cambodian waters in August 1978.

"It's fairly clear what took place. Nuon Chea was Brother Number Two, second to Pol Pot, and obviously he played a role in this, so I am not surprised," he said.

"In fact, Nuon Chea had a role in my brother's fate when he ordered Duch, who was committed of war crimes in the first trial to life, to cremate the Westerners."

The historic ruling against the only two surviving figureheads, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, was made by an international tribunal who sentenced the pair to life in prison.

Hamill revealed he doesn't just mourn the loss of his sibling, but all of the masses who were affected.

"Loss in any form shapes family's lives and certainly the loss of Kerry shaped ours.

"I feel for all the victims in this whole process rather than my own individual family story because this is vastly bigger story than one person," he said.

Hamill and Briton John Dewhirst were interrogated and tortured for two months before being killed in Phnom Penh's notorious Tuol Sleng Prison, run by Duch, who faced trial in 2009.

Crewman Stuart Glass, a Canadian, was shot dead. Thousands of Cambodians were killed at the prison.

The Kiwi rower said that who have blood on their hands need to be held to account for not just the symbol of justice but as a deterrent for it to happen again.

"If they're still alive they need to be brought to trial," he said.

"The reality is there are tens of thousands of people with blood on their hands but they will never stand trial and that's just unrealistic to think that but for those victims, symbolic justice is very important at the least, and this certainly plays a part in that, this conviction, for no other reason than to help answer the question why.

"It's also a deterrent because you'd like to think that those who commit these atrocities, ultimately we want these trials to stop these things happening but if they do then it is a deterrent, you will be held to court at some time."

He explained that he is still keen to follow and assist wherever he can help to bring justice after testifying at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, who was responsible for Kerry's death.  

"Other than try and focus on my family now and try to minimise the grief and the loss." 

About a dozen Westerners were among the estimated 16,000 people held at the prison before being killed.

The communist regime's radical policies while in power from 1975-79 caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people nationwide by execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia.

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