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Monday, April 09, 2012

Barrister heads to Cambodia to bring justice to victims of the Khmer Rouge

DERBY barrister and recorder has been appointed by the United Nations as a senior prosecutor in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia.

Keith Raynor, who has practised at Derby Crown Court since 1994, was one of more than 400 applicants for the job.

Barrister Keith Raynor said he had always been interested in international criminal law.
Barrister Keith Raynor said he had always been interested in international criminal law

The tribunal was set up by the UN and Cambodian government in 2006 to try former members of the Pol Pot regime for genocide and crimes against humanity between 1975 and 1979.

A quarter of the population – two million people – died during the communist revolution, depicted in The Killing Fields movie.

Mr Raynor, of Coxbench, has prosecuted and defended in a wide range of criminal cases but nothing quite on this scale.

He said: "I am delighted to be appointed. My daily routine will change tremendously – I will now be focusing on one very large case, instead of a number of cases."

It is the largest international criminal tribunal since the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War.

Mr Raynor said: "I am particularly looking forward to working with Cambodian and other international lawyers. It will be a challenge but I like to be challenged.

"It is a significant change for me and my family but there will be opportunities for all of us in Cambodia and the chance to experience a different culture."

The 47-year-old has one more trial to do in Nottingham, which involves the riots of last summer, before he packs up his wig and gown for the trip to Phnom Penh.

Speaking about the history of the case, Mr Raynor said: "In the first few days, the Khmer Rouge rounded up civil servants and military officers, took them to the Olympic stadium and shot them.

"They then forced people to leave their homes and move into the countryside as part of an agrarian revolution – to work in the rice fields and on industrial-scale projects, such as building a dam with little modern machinery."

He said that banks were abolished, money was outlawed and there was political indoctrination. Professionals including doctors and teachers were also executed.

Mr Raynor said the methods of killing were particularly "brutal". Other people died of illness, exhaustion and starvation.

"No other country has ever lost such a proportion of its population in a politically-inspired campaign instigated by its own leaders," he said.

Mr Raynor has never been to Cambodia but he and his wife, Joanna, have spent a lot of time travelling and working overseas, including in Australia, Hong Kong, Chile, Kenya and Germany.

The dad-of-two qualified as a solicitor in 1990 and served in the Army until 1994.

Between 1996 and 2004, he was in partnership at a solicitors' firm in Derby. He then transferred to the Bar and practised from chambers in Nottingham until last year when he moved to London.

Mr Raynor, who applied for the UN job 18 months ago, said: "I have always been interested in international criminal law. When I was in the Army, I helped train soldiers before deployments to the Gulf War in 1991.

He has started learning Khmer, the indigenous language of the country, but his work will be in English.

Mr Raynor has been appointed to work on the second case in the tribunal, which involves three top members of the former regime.

The first case saw the conviction of Kaing Guek Eav, who was the chief jailer. He was given a life sentence for his role in the deaths of more than 14,000 people at a torture centre in Phnom Penh.

Although the trial will take up a lot of Mr Raynor's time, the Derby Rugby Club coach has offered to referee and teach the sport there.

His interior designer wife Joanna and sons Lewis, 15, and Max, 13, will fly out for a visit in the early summer with a view to joining him longer term in September.

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