Court may weigh regime's forced marriages

Feb. 18, 2013 at 1:04 PM

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A Cambodian tribunal is being asked to look into the cases of hundreds of people forced into marriage during the Khmer Rouge regime, officials say.

The court is already investigating crimes allegedly committed by the regime and lawyers want it to also focus on 783 marriages it made mandatory, The Phnom Penh Post reported Monday.

"It needs to be acknowledged that these sexualized crimes are not only a byproduct, or a private family issue, or not that important, or not that grave," said Silke Studzinsky, a former civil attorney who represented a transgendered woman forced into marriage as a man.

Forced marriage was a central policy of the Khmer Rouge, which ordered complete strangers or people from different socio-economic classes to marry each other. The policy was intended to break down family bonds and focus loyalty on the Khmer Rouge cause.

Lawyers say adding the issue would extend the hearings by only two weeks.

Elizabeth Simonneau-Fort, the lead co-lawyer for the international civil party, suggested that that people looking for justice will probably be disappointed. She asked them "to keep in mind the reality of where we are now. We cannot begin from the beginning again."

During the reign of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, 2 million people were believed to have died from political executions, starvation and forced labor.

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