This is no ordinary trial.
The three defendants are facing charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for turning Cambodia’s countryside into “killing fields” where an estimated 1.7 million people died.
The crimes, however, were committed over three decades ago. Both the accused and their accusers are in their 70s and 80s. The UN-backed trial of the three surviving top leaders of the murderous Khmer Rouge began in November but the proceedings are moving at a snail’s pace.
Both the defendants and witnesses are in poor health and with failing memories.
It’s a good thing that the atrocities are told, captured, and documented in films, books, photographs and other journalistic materials, many of them by American journalists. The prosecution is relying on these materials as evidence against the accused, something the defense is not too pleased about, reports the Phnom Penh Post.
One of the accused questions the use of journalistic works as evidence in the trial.
“The journalists that you cited in your presentation are not legally bound by the law. Of course, they are entitled to be wrong, to be biased, and to be partial, and to express their opinions freely, without thinking in details on any particular issue,” the Post quotes the defendant as telling the court.
War photographer Al Rockoff has a different view. He told the Post:
“This isn’t like Nuremberg or Tokyo, done immediately after the fact; this is more than 30 years later, and sometimes people need to have their memories jarred. All the little details and colour of a photograph help that.”