“I kept thinking I’d turn a corner and I’d see real life,” US journalist tells ECCC

23 February 2015 by Ate Hoekstra, Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

When former Washington Post correspondent Elizabeth Becker testified as an expert witness this month at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC), she described a surreal visit to Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime where “every move was controlled” and everything staged for foreign journalists' benefit.

American journalist Elizabeth Becker testifies as an expert witness in Case 002/02 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (Photo: ECCC/Nhet Sok Heng/Flickr/krtribunal)
Image caption: 
American journalist Elizabeth Becker testifies as an expert witness in Case 002/02 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (Photo: ECCC/Nhet Sok Heng/Flickr/krtribunal)

Considered a leading expert on Cambodia, Becker was called to court because of her extensive research on the Khmer Rouge. Her widely quoted book ‘When the war was over’, first published in 1986, deals with Cambodia’s years of horror. She is also one of the few foreigners ever permitted to visit the Khmer Rouge-led Democratic Kampuchea and meet with regime leaders. “I’ve never been on a trip like that in my life, before or after, where every move was controlled,” Becker said during her testimony, which was widely covered in the Cambodian media.

Becker is the first historical expert to testify in Case 002/02, as the second trial against former head of state Khieu Samphan and the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologist, Nuon Chea, is called. The two octogenarians are the most senior leaders still alive. After being sentenced in August to life in prison for crimes against humanity, they now face trial for a second series of accusations, including genocide and forced marriages [IJT-168].

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