Kiwi rower Rob Hamill will return to Cambodia at the end of July to hear the verdict in the trial of Comrade Duch, the Khmer Rouge commander of Tuol Sleng prison where Rob’s brother, Kerry, was tortured and killed in late 1978.
Rob’s presence at the Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) for the verdict on the 26th July comes almost a year after he testified there as a ‘Civil Party’ representative. Speaking as one of many that suffered losses at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Rob gave testimony exactly 31 years after Kerry and Englishman John Dewhirst were snatched from their storm-blown yacht. A third sailor Canadian Stuart Glass was killed on the spot. Kerry and John were tortured for up to two months at ‘Tuol Sleng’ (also known as ‘S21’) and forced to falsely confess they were CIA spies, before being executed on the orders of Pol Pot. 14,000 Cambodians met a similar fate at the prison. Rob’s statement, like that of the other Civil Parties, was intended to influence the sentencing of Duch.
Rob believes that the sentencing is crucial to Cambodia’s recovery as a nation: “There is a saying in Cambodia, ‘Transform the River of Blood into a River of Reconciliation’. Nearly two million Cambodians were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979,” said Hamill. “I only hope that this verdict brings some sense of justice to those who have suffered so much and waited so long.”
Rob’s story is the subject of ‘Brother Number One’, a film produced by Annie Goldson, James Bellamy and Rob for BNO Productions/Pan Pacific Films. The documentary is intended for theatrical and broadcast release in New Zealand and worldwide, and is funded by NZ on Air, TV3, and the NZ Film Commission. Annie, an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland who has received multiple awards for her earlier films, is also directing, with Academy Award-winner Peter Gilbert and Kiwi Jake Bryant sharing the cinematographer credit.
The Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia is under joint Cambodian and UN jurisdiction. Former New Zealand Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright is one the two international judges who, along with three Cambodian judges, will decide Duch’s fate. See http://www.eccc.gov.kh/english/ for more info.
Rob Hamill is widely known for winning the first-ever Trans-Atlantic Rowing Race in 1997 with the late Phil Stubbs. He currently works as a motivational speaker, as an organiser of ‘The Great Race’ international rowing event on the Waikato River. He has also been elected to the WEL Energy Trust and campaigns for environmental causes.