Monday, July 26, 2010

How to celebrate the 26th of July: Render a guilty verdict against a communist war criminal

Is it a Coincidence or Synchronicity? Cuba and Cambodia now share July 26 as a historic date

It matters little if they condemn me, even to the heaviest sentence.” Kaing Guek Eav “Duch” (2010)

“Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.” – Fidel Castro (1953)

The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) today found KAING Guek Eav alias Duch guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and sentenced him to 35 (thirty-five) years of imprisonment.

Kaing Guek Eav a.k.a. "Duch" tortured and murdered thousands

Today, July 26, 2010 there are two events that although causally unrelated occurring together on the same day gives both added meaning: the guilty verdict of Cambodian war criminal Kaing Guek Eav whose revolutionary name “Duch” was obtained in the 1970s with the Khmer Rouge condemned to 35 years in prison by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and Jose Ramon Machado Ventura’s speech today in observance of the July 26, 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks.

Although there is no causal relationship between these two events they do have a shared meaning. Beyond the same basic Marxist-Leninist ideological framework one finds in both actions an attempt to defend the indefensible when now viewed through the prism of time. This is an example of what Carl Gustav Jung described as Synchronicity which he defined over the years as the "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events"; an "acausal connecting principle"; a "meaningful coincidence" and "acausal parallelism" or it could just be one huge coincidence.

This connection between events in Cuba and in Cambodia during revolutionary communist regimes is acausally linked again by the documentary, Enemies of the People, opening in New York City four days from now on July 30, 2010 at the Quad Cinema. The documentary is the winner of the 2010 Human Rights Watch Film Festival Nestor Almendros Award for Courage in Film making. The award is named after famed filmmaker Nestor Almendros, born in Spain raised in Cuba, who co-directed two important films about human rights in Cuba: Mauvaise conduite aka “Improper Conduct” (1984) about the persecution of gay people in Revolutionary Cuba and Nadie escuchaba (1987) aka "Nobody Listened" about the human rights situation overall under the Castro brothers.

The connection between Fidel and Raul Castro and genocidal war criminals is well documented such as their close relationship with Ethiopian war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam not to mention criminal practices in Cuba and the demonizing of dissenting Cubans with dehumanizing rhetoric which is one of the eight stages of genocide.

Raul Castro & Fidel Castro with close ally Mengistu Haile Mariam

In the case of Marxist ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam or as Fidel Castro referred to him "Comrade Mengistu" there is a lot of information demonstrating the close working relationship between Mengistu and both Castro brothers. Cuba sent the first wave of what would become 5,000 Cuban troops to fight government rebels in December 1977-January 1978. In September of 1978 Fidel Castro arrived in Ethiopia to address both Ethiopian and Cuban troops and claim both victory and the Ethiopian revolution's popular support:

"Comrade Cubans, I can recall those days of December 1977 and January 1978 when we said farewell to the first Cuban internationalist combatants who were leaving for Ethiopia. [...]Eighteen months later we have returned to a Ethiopia which is victorious be cause of its combative sons' heroism and the support of international solidarity, as Comrade Mengistu stated 2 days ago. Moreover, it is also an already powerful Ethiopia. Tuesday's popular parade confirmed the enormous popular support for this revolutionary change. Yesterday's military parade tells us of the degree of organization and discipline achieved by the combative and courageous fraternal Ethiopian people. The rapid revolutionary offensive of the Ethiopian and Cuban troops practically annihilated the enemy. [...]Ethiopian brothers, together with you we have fought and we have won. Together with you we are ready to fight again and to win again. Together with you we pledge: Fatherland or death, we shall win!

Castro's September 1978 speech places Cuban combatants on the ground in December of 1977. The importance of these dates will become evident later on. The next excerpt is from a conversation with the then East German dictator Erik Honecker discussing the situation in Ethiopia and Fidel Castro's assesment of Mengistu in February of 1977 following a visit and meeting with him:

Mengistu strikes me as a quiet, serious, and sincere leader who is aware of the power of the masses. He is an intellectual personality who showed his wisdom on 3 February. The rightists wanted to do away with the leftists on 3 February. The prelude to this was an exuberant speech by the Ethiopian president in favor of nationalism. Mengistu preempted this coup. He called the meeting of the Revolutionary Council one hour early and had the rightist leaders arrested and shot. A very consequential decision was taken on 3 February in Ethiopia. The political landscape of the country changed, which has enabled them to take steps that were impossible before then. Before it was only possible to support the leftist forces indirectly, now we can do so without any constraints.

Fidel Castro with close ally Mengistu Haile Mariam

The dates are important because it coincides with the beginning of the "Red Terror" in which 2,000 Africans were slaughtered. This was a purge of political opponents. According to press accounts: "Suspects were rounded up, some shot, others garrotted. The bodies were thrown on the streets." There would be a Cuban military presence on the ground until 1988. In December 2006 Ethiopia's former dictator was found guilty of the extrajudicial killing of thousands of political opponents and his involvement in a famine which killed one million people and found guilty of genocide in absentia. A Reuters video report on the 2006 trial is available below:

Video of the international tribunal announcing the guilty verdict on July 26 of war criminal Kaing Guek Eac, otherwise known as "Duch" can be heard with English translation here and is available below in Khmer:

Below is reproduced the statement of the international tribunal regarding the guilty verdict and sentence for Kaing Guek Eac, otherwise known as "Duch":

Subject: Kaing Guek Eav convicted of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949

Date: 26 July 2010

The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) today found KAING Guek Eav alias Duch guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and sentenced him to 35 (thirty-five) years of imprisonment.

KAING Guek Eav, the first person to stand trial before the ECCC, served as Deputy and then Chairman of S-21, a security centre tasked with interrogating and executing persons perceived as enemies of Democratic Kampuchea by the Communist Party of Kampuchea. S-21 was operational between 1975 and 1979. The Chamber found that every individual detained within S-21 was destined for execution in accordance with the Communist Party of Kampuchea policy to “smash” all enemies. In addition to mass executions, many detainees died as a result of torture and their conditions of detention. Although finding a minimum of 12,272 individuals to have been detained and executed at S-21 on the basis of prisoner lists, the Chamber indicated that the actual number of detainees is likely to have been considerably greater.

The Trial Chamber found that KAING Guek Eav acted with various individuals, and through his subordinates, to operate S-21 and S-24: an adjunct facility used as a re-education camp, and where a minimum of a further 1,300 individuals were detained. It further found that KAING Guek Eav possessed and exercised significant authority at S-21 and that his conduct in carrying out his functions showed a high degree of efficiency and zeal. He worked tirelessly to ensure that S-21 ran as efficiently as possible and did so out of unquestioning loyalty to his superiors. The Chamber found that KAING Guek Eav therefore not only implemented but actively contributed to the development of Communist Party of Kampuchea policies at S-21.

KAING Guek Eav had also been charged with national crimes of premeditated murder and torture, punishable before the ECCC under Article 3 (new) of the ECCC Law. The Chamber, in a separate decision also issued today, disagreed on whether responsibility for these crimes had already been extinguished before the ECCC investigation of the Accused commenced. The absence of a required majority prevented the Chamber exercising its jurisdiction in relation to these national crimes. This decision had no impact on sentence.

KAING Guek Eav was convicted of crimes against humanity (persecution on politicalgrounds) (incorporating various other crimes against humanity, including extermination,imprisonment and torture), as well as numerous grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, for which, by a majority, the Chamber imposed a single, consolidated sentence of 35 (thirty-five) years of imprisonment. In deciding on an appropriate sentence, the Chamber noted a number of aggravating features, in particular the gravity of the offences, which were perpetrated against at least 12,272 victims over a prolonged period.

The Chamber decided that there are significant mitigating factors that mandated the imposition of a finite term of imprisonment rather than one of life imprisonment. These factors include cooperation with the Chamber, admission of responsibility, limited expressions of remorse, the coercive environment in Democratic Kampuchea, and the potential for rehabilitation.

Following an earlier decision of the Chamber of 15 June 2009, the Chamber considered that a reduction in the above sentence of 5 (five) years was appropriate given the violation of KAING Guek Eav’s rights occasioned by his illegal detention by the Cambodian Military Court between 10 May 1999 and 30 July 2007. KAING Guek Eav is further entitled to credit for time already spent in detention, under the authority both of the Cambodian Military Court and the ECCC.
In its judgement, the Trial Chamber declared 66 Civil Parties either to have established their claim to be immediate victims of S-21 or S-24, or to have proved the existence of immediate victims of S-21 or S-24 and close kinship or particular bonds of affection or dependency in relation to them. They have further shown that the death of these victims caused demonstrable injury and that this harm was a direct consequence of KAING Guek Eav’s offending. The Chamber granted the request of these Civil Parties that their names be included in the judgement. The Chamber rejected all Civil Party claims on the grounds of lack of specificity, for as being beyond the scope of available reparations before the ECCC. However, it ordered the compilation and publication of all statements of apology made by the Accused during the trial.

The substantive part of the trial against KAING Guek Eav commenced on 30 March 2009. Closing arguments ended on 27 November 2009 after a total of 72 trial days, during which 24 witnesses, 22 Civil Parties and nine experts were heard. More than 28,000 people followed the proceedings from the public gallery.

Hopefully one day soon the war criminals responsible for mass murders in Cuba such as the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre will be brought to justice before an international tribunal inside of Cuba. It would be wonderful if it happened as it has happened today on July 26, 2010 in Cambodia. Whether justice is obtained in Cuba in the future or continues to slog its way through in Cambodia will be up to primarily but not only for Cubans and Cambodians in their respective countries but also the international community. Amnesty International has called today's conviction a first step towards justice for the nearly two million killed by the Khmer Rouge and called for more prosecutions of those responsible for the Cambodian genocide. Let us pray and do our part to see that justice is done.

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