‘Justice delayed is justice denied’, goes the old saying. Its truth was dramatically illustrated this week when Ieng Sary, so-called Brother Number 3, died during his trial for his part in the Khmer Rouge’s campaign of mass murder in Cambodia in the 1970’s.
Ieng Sary, who had been the Khmer Rouge’s foreign minister, was aged 87 and in poor health. He had denied the charges against him. During the regime’s reign of terror, up to 1.75 million people, a quarter of Cambodia’s population, were exterminated.
So far, only one person has been convicted for his role in these events. Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Proceedings against Ieng Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, were suspended when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Now following Ieng Sary’s death, there are only two remaining defendants, both of whom are frail and suffering from high blood pressure.
Like Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, they have been in custody since 2007. With Cambodians seeing the opportunity of calling to account those accused of participation in one of the worst crimes in history slipping away, the country’s Centre for Human Rights has urged the authorities to proceed as quickly as possible.
(See also my blogs of 16 Sept, 2010 and 1 Feb, 2011.)