Phnom Penh, CAMBODIA: A Cambodian guard sits near former Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok who lies in coma at a hospital in Phnom Penh, 16 July 2006. Ta Mok, expected to be the first person indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity died five days later at the age of 80.
Credit: AFP

Here's a salient reason to prosecute war crimes in a timely manner.

The Phnom Penh Post has an illuminating piece on elderly witnesses in an ongoing trial against the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, which caused nearly 2 million deaths in its drive to turn Cambodia into a communist utopia.

A number of witnesses to the 1975-79 atrocities are elderly, in poor health and struggling to offer clear testimonies before the court, the Phnom Penh Post reports. “Witnesses could degenerate to the point where they cannot be examined," one prosecutor told the Post.

The passage of time, and the Cambodian government's stalling on the trials, has left those seeking justice running out of regime leaders to prosecute.

Leader Pol Pot died in 1998. Another leader, Ta Mok, died in 2006. The onset of age has left senior-ranking female leader, Ieng Thirith, too senile to stand trial, according to her defense.

Even if the trial does punish surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, their recent statements suggest they will go to the grave unrepentant.




Related Stories