[Frog: I received this post from the Green party’s own mark Servian in Cambodia last evening, along with the transcript of Rob’s testimony. All I can say is, this guy has got guts. Good on ya, Rob.]
I watched Rob’s incredible performance via closed circuit TV from the media room in the courthouse of the Extraordinary Court Chambers of Cambodia (www.eccc.gov.kh/english). Here was a man of incredible endurance and fortitude – he did win the Transatlantic rowing race – showing that he was both so very vunerable but strong enough to stand up to the man in the dock – Duch, one of the horriblest monsters of the 20th Century.
It had been a frantic day as we had expected Rob to testify today, Tuesday, and only got the call yesterday that he was likely to be on mid-morning. At the time I was with Rachel, Rob’s wife and Ivan, his two-year-old son, visiting Tuol Sleng or S21, the terrible death camp that Duch presided over and where Rob’s brother, Kerry, was tortured and murdered in 1978. It is a truly gruesome place – I’ve been to Hiroshima and visited Sri Lanka soon after the tsunami, but this is on entirely other level of unpleasantness.
For anyone who wants to claim that ‘waterboarding’ is not torture, rest assured that the Khmer Rouge, who sought to perfect the science of deliberate infliction of human pain, included it in their arsenal. Their method was to have a cut oil drum with steel shackles bolted within so the prisoner could be locked with their head inside as the water came in through a pipe. There sitting in a room is the device, in front of a painting of the process, done by one of the camp’s seven survivors.
15,000-20,000 people were tortured in this former high school before being taken away for execution at the local Killing Field, and yet it covers a relatively small area that, even with the horrible makeshift brick cells built in each classroom, can’t have housed more than a few hundred at a time. Duch and co were terribly efficient.
Rob was already in the court room when we arrived there with the ‘Brother Number One’ (http://bno-documentary.blogspot.com/) doco crew. We weren’t allowed to take Ivan into the court itself, so we sat in the media room next door. When a break came in proceedings, Alain, Rob’s Swiss lawyer suddenly appeared, saying Rob was concerned that Rachel wasn’t inside, we told him to see if we could get Ivan in but that was to no avail, so Rachel handed Ivan to me, waking him in the process and raced inside. I comforted the raucous toddler and he soon calmed down and sat on my knee for the rest of the proceedings. When Kerry’s picture appeared on the screen, he called out ‘daddy’, mistaking the uncle he’ll never meet for his father.
After Rob emerged we were all taken to a side room so he and Rachel could debrief with the doco crew rolling. Sambath Reach, a court official who like seemingly everyone here lost family to the Khmer Rouge, expressed his deep thanks to Rob for saying things that have not been heard in the court room and for standing up to Duch in a way no one had yet dared. After the media scrum, he took us to the court’s Buddhist shrine nearby, so that, in the late afternoon tropical sun, Rob give make an offering for Kerry.
Now I know what Frogblog’s comments section can be like, so before all those boys who make the blogosphere such an unpleasant place for compassionate, unselfish people start up with their predicatable claims that this is what *the left* leads to, let me say this – every political and religious creed that has allowed any form of violence to be part of its agenda or methodology has at times created the sort of madness that Pol Pot let loose.
The real underlying human attribute that set the Killing Fields, and the Holocaust, and Inquisition, and 9-11 and Abu Ghraib et al in action, is certainty, certainty on a scale that will impose its will through violence.
For us in the West what we have to get our heads around is that the Khmer Rouge learnt their ideology in Paris and were able to seize power because Richard Nixon personally ordered a secret bombing campaign that killed half a million. And that US foreign policy, in particular their determination to never forgive anyone that drives them off, allowed the Khmer Rouge to occupy Cambodia’s UN seat until 1993 rather than the government installed by the Vietnamese invasion that ended their rule.
That outrage alone is a major reason why its taken so long for a sailor from Whakatane to have his story told and see justice, a day that finally came yesterday.