Victor’s justice

Minh Bui Jones

Nuon Chea in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal on 5 December 2011. Photograph: Nhet Sok Heng/ECCC.

My car is barrelling down the commercial spine of Phnom Penh, Monivong Boulevard, past flashing amber lights and late-night workers packing up, turning right onto Mao Tse Tung Blvd, then left onto Street 450, following an open sewer- canal, slowing down beside a billboard advertising Sino Wall development, another right turn, then pulling up opposite a two-storey house wrapped in darkness. At the appointed time, 3.30am, Victor Koppe, international defence counsel for Nuon Chea, the ideological mastermind of the Khmer Rouge, which ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 during which an estimated 1.7 million people died, emerges from behind the iron gates of his house. He is dragged along by two dogs, a present from his Cambodian co-lawyer Son Arun. Every morning for the past year and a half, since he has had the dogs, the Dutch lawyer begins his working day with a predawn perambulation through the streets of Tuol Tumpung, the suburb in downtown Phnom Penh where he lives. About a kilometre away is Tuol Sleng, the prison and torture centre of the Khmer Rouge, who referred to it by its bureaucratic code S-21.

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