Justice for Cambodia victims about to be served

  • 24/07/2010

By Janika ter Ellen

Former Olympic rower Rob Hamill is in Cambodia, but not to bask in the sun or to attempt another transatlantic record.

He's there for the verdict of a war crimes trial involving the man he blames for his brother's killing over 30 years ago.

Mr Hamill surveys the killing fields in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, where the skulls of Khmer Rouge's murdered victims lie - exhumed from mass graves after the regime's defeat.

They represent the 1.7 million men, women and children who died during Pol Pot's reign.

"I can't quite reconcile how justice can ever be served with the nature and the way these people's lives were taken," he says.

Pol Pot's long dead, but Mr Hamill is here for the sentencing of his trusted commander Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, for his part in the genocide.

During the trial, Mr Hamill had the chance to speak directly to the frail maths teacher-turned killing commander, and wished upon him the punishments he had dished out to his victims.

"I have imagined your scrotum electrified, being forced to eat your own faeces, being nearly drowned, and having your throat cut."

Duch ran the S21 prison where at least 14,000 were detained - including Mr Hamill's brother.

Kerry Hamill had been sailing to Bangkok in 1978 when his yacht veered into Cambodian waters - he was captured, tortured then killed.

Family found out about Kerry's fate 16 months later, after the regime fell in 1979. It was too much for Mr Hamill's younger brother john, who jumped from a cliff soon afterwards.

Mr Hamill says he's more accepting now, and the verdict brings closure for the family.

"After 30 years of our own family kind of suppressing it - and kind of not talking about it - and the effect it had on our family, I think this is a very special time and I'd like to think he's looking down on us thinking, yeah, it's about bloody time."

Duch's verdict and sentence will be handed down in two days.

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source: newshub archive