Justice near for murdered Canuck 0
This stark monument housing the skulls of thousands of victims of the bloody Khmer Rouge today stands on the site of the ``killing fields'' outside the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
Justice delayed is justice denied. It's a legal maxim that gains an acute human quality when applied to the fate of Canadian adventurer Stuart Robert Glass.
The B.C. native died in a hail of machine gun bullets late one steamy August afternoon in 1978.
His crime? Glass and two companions had inadvertently sailed their boat Foxy Lady into Cambodian waters after a short journey across the Gulf of Thailand from Malaysia.
Compared to what was to come for his sailing mates, Glass' death was mercifully quick.
Sailors from the Khmer Rouge patrol boat that intercepted them apprehended the Canadian's two companions.
The Englishman John Dewhirst and New Zealander Kerry Hamill were taken to the capital Phnom Penh.
Then they were held in the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. The pair were tortured, made to sign confessions, tortured some more and then had their throats slit before their bodies were burned to ashes.
Flash forward 34 years. For the past six weeks, three of the men who can be held responsible for the death of 27-year-old Stuart Glass amongst millions of others have been under trial in a courtroom in Phnom Penh facing long-delayed justice.
The three accused - Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary - have pleaded not guilty to charges that include crimes against humanity, genocide and torture.
Testimony at the Extraordinary Chambers for the Courts in Cambodia (ECCC) has revealed Nuon Chea, once second in charge of the Khmer Rouge, was head of internal security at the time of the Foxy Lady incident.
He would have given the direct order for the death of the three men under the direction of brother Number One, Pol Pot.
While it is important that the men who were ultimately responsible for Stuart Glass' death face justice, however long after the fact, it is equally important to put his death in perspective. The bloody murderers in the Khmer Rouge killed nearly 1.7 million people during their reign from 1975-79.
Try as they might, they could never fully conceal the evidence.
In 1993, I went to the infamous `killing fields' while based in Phnom Penh as a correspondent covering the early phases of the United Nations Transition Authority Cambodia (UNTAC).
I paid a local the princely sum of $2 (U.S.) to take me there on the back of his motorcycle.
We bumped along dirt tracks for some 17 kilometres outside the capital, me hanging on the back of the bike while his shoulder-slung AK-47 jabbed my ribs and what looked like a US service issued M1911 pistol poking out of the top of his Levis.
We finally stopped at a place called Choeung Ek and I set off on foot across the beds of old rice paddies.
As I did, there was a crunching sound I assumed to be undergrowth.
I stopped and looked down. Shattered pieces of human bone were under my feet. Looking up and ahead there were hectares of bleaching bones stretching off as far as the eye could see.
In the distance fluttered what I thought were pieces of coloured paper trapped in the dirt. I walked forward and caught one. It was the remains of a young girl's blouse. There was clothing everywhere, so too discarded trenching tools, spent rifle shell casings and signs warning of still live land mines.
Great, stinking open pits were left gouged out of the raw earth. They were all full of bones. Looking down at some of the exposed skulls you could clearly see the knicks left by a trenching tool as the victim was clubbed to death.
Most tragically, smaller pits full of the broken bones of small children, yes, even babies. Guards had simply swung the newborns by the feet and smashed their heads against any nearby tree.
The Khmer Rouge policy was not to waste bullets on "vermin.'' Prisoners dug their own graves and were then forced to kill each other.
This was after time served in Tuol Sleng prison where confessions were extracted from prisoners using methods that included raising prisoners by their arms tied behind and dislocating shoulders, removing toenails and/or teeth with pliers, repeated suffocation, electric shock to the genitals and skinning a person alive.
Perhaps the greatest injustice of the current UN-sponsored war crimes trial is that Pol Pot, the architect of the entire Khmer regime, died in his sleep in 1998. We can only hope for Stuart Glass's sake and hundreds of thousands of long dead Cambodians, it wasn't peacefully.
The trial resumes Monday.