Sunday, August 30, 2009

Director’s diary - Annie Goldson

Back from Cambodia nearly a week now. I think it was difficult for all of us to process what we saw and experienced. Working something like 11 x 12/13 hour days, we had to focus on what was in front of us, ensuring we stayed sensitive to our subjects, adhered to the schedule but remained open to unexpected storylines when they revealed themselves.

And then there is always the practical demands: changing and numbering tapes, charging batteries, making sure there was enough light, finding power sources and so on. The usual demands but in place that had felt like no other. Now the intense focus of production has elapsed I find Cambodia returns in my dreams, my psyche’s attempt to cope, after the fact, with the surreal horrors of Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields.

Something most Cambodians have to deal with on a daily basis. That was what struck me – how many stories, untold stories, are out there waiting to be told and how many people we came across that told us of the nightmare that that had been their past. Memories made harder too, because of the lack of accountability for and acknowledgement of these crimes. The past hurts can only ever be very partially salved by the Court process, whatever its outcome.

Rob was amazing to work with, showing courage and dignity at every step. He has always had an ability to express strength of will, along with an extraordinary openness of emotion (often seen as contradictory). The Cambodians we spoke with were immensely grateful for his stand in Court: he was able to express things that perhaps they felt less able to.

There were optimistic moments while filming too, especially working with DC Cam and seeing the multi-dimensional work that they undertaking to try to address the past, from writing the first real history books, through conducting outreach programmes. to attempting to institute reconciliation between perpetrators and victims, plus much more.

There were fun times too, hanging out with Kulikar, our “translator/character” and Vothar, our great “slow and steady” driver who managed to negotiate us through extreme traffic with grace and care. And watching the spectacular display at the stadium in the early evening as forty competing aerobics teams, dancing to separate rhythms, strive for fitness. A soccer game goes on beneath them largely unnoticed while kites and balloons whirl overhead.

(Photo: Mark Servian)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Justice for a beloved brother - Waikato Times feature

Waikato Times, Saturday 29 August, page E5

This month Waikato man Rob Hamill went to Cambodia to face his brother's killer in a Phnom Pehn courtroom, testifying against Khmer Rouge commander Comrade Duch. Hamilton writer Mark Servian was there as his media support, and reports on Hamill's harrowing journey.

Rob Hamill looked at the judge and said "Limeworks Loop Road, Te Pahu", and on the dusty outskirts of Phnom Pehn my vision stretched and the background seemed to retreat at the mention of that familiar hamlet in the far-away green foothills of Pirongia.

Poignant moment: Rob Hamill looks at skulls at the memorial at Choeung Ek Killing Field on the outskirts of Phnom Pehn. Rob's brother Kerry was killed just two months before the Vietnamese overthrew Pol Pot in January 1979. Photos: Mark Servian.

Such mundane opening questions – "what is your address?" – to establish his identity. No inquiry to his character, to what he has achieved. For winning a Trans-Atlantic rowing race and breaking world records, or polling highest for the energy trust and fundraising for the hospice, all count for naught in the eyes of this Cambodian court. Here he is just another victim giving testimony, made of the same fragile human flesh that the accused there in the dock rendered and tore asunder so many times.

Mark Servian: Accompanied Rob Hamill

But when asked to identify his family, Rob gives a clue to the man within – he names Kerry and John in the present tense. They ARE his brothers even now, though their deaths three decades ago is what has bought him here, face to face in this room with Comrade Duch (‘DOIK’), the Khmer Rouge monster responsible, a mathematician whose victims add up to the tens of thousands.

We had received word that Rob was to testify a day earlier than expected while visiting the scene of those terrible crimes. Rachel his wife, Ivan his two-year-old son and I were visiting Tuol Sleng or S21, the former high school down a Phnom Pehn back street that should be as infamous as Auschwitz.

In this place, about the size of Garden Place [or Wgtn’s Civic Square or half of Chch’s The Square], Kerry Hamill landed up in 1978 with fellow lost sailor John Dewhirst. Here they were tortured and abused for months before the final release of death, along with some 15,000 to 20,000 other men, women and children.

Today just inside the gate, Rachel starts crying, sobbing, for she has been living Kerry’s story for years and now she stands in the place that has loomed so large in her and Rob’s imagination.

The guide asks where we’re from and we say "New Zealand", he says "I took a New Zealander whose brother was here around the other day", Rachel says, "he’s my husband".

Rob visited Tuol Sleng a few days earlier and found it very hard to take. He says he arrived in Cambodia wanting to find some way in his heart to forgive Duch. But experiencing this torture factory first hand banished any chance of that. In Rob’s words, Duch "no longer belongs to the human species".

For this man, who as a young student won national mathematics prizes, designed the deliberate considered processes of this torture factory. Duch alone gave the order to "smash" each and every one of his victims.

Tuol Sleng victims: Khmer Rouge documentation of their victims are displayed at the Genocide Museum at the former torture centre in Phnom Pehn, the capital of Cambodia.

As we see and have these horrors described, Rachel’s sobbing stops. As she says later, and is as true for me, "you just feel numb after a while". We see tiny brick cells with bloodstains on the floor, balconies barb-wired to prevent escape by suicide, makeshift but efficient torture devices and tools, hundreds of photos of faces both before and after death. And actually worse of all, the paintings by Vann Nath, one of only seven survivors, that document what he witnessed.

Rob later asserts that the inmates were treated like animals, but really, if animals are ever treated like this, it is called what it is - cruelty.

Initially ‘Angkar’, or the ‘Khmer Rouge’ as we in the West know them, only targeted the ‘new people’- the city dwellers, wearers of glasses, the intellectuals, but also factory workers and mechanics, anyone involved in the modern economy (the ‘old people’ were the rural subsistence-living ‘peasants’). But as Pol Pot’s paranoia increased, Angkar turned on their own and started torturing and killing their own ranks.

The foreigners that Duch got his hands on served to prove that the enemies were at the gate, tortured into falsely confessing they were CIA or KGB agents. Kerry Hamill was killed just two or so months before the Vietnamese overthrew Pol Pot in January 1979. Before Rob’s arrival, Duch’s trial at the Extraordinary Court Chambers of Cambodia has already established that Kerry and other foreigners were burnt with tyres around their necks in order to destroy the evidence.

Torture Room: The bed in Tuol Sleng that victims were chained to still remains. The photo on the wall shows what the Vietnamese found in the room in January 1979.

The debate in court has been over whether or not they were alive when this was done. A few weeks back, an ex-guard had testified that they were, but Duch maintains that he ordered that they be killed first and that no one would have disobeyed him.

This is typical of how Duch has tried to run the courtroom from the dock, in a different manner but with the same intellectual arrogance that we saw from Clayton Weatherston back in New Zealand a few weeks ago.

Duch converted to Christianity in the mid-90s and, unlike the other senior Khmer Rouge yet to be tried, has pleaded guilty to all charges – the court case is to decide his sentence and to cross-examine him in the French inquisitorial style. But having been arrested in 1999, he has had ten years to prepare his defence.

So while he has often said sorry and asked forgiveness, his aloof behaviour in court does not match his words and he splits such horrible hairs – death by tyre or machete? – to qualify what he did. ‘I was only following orders, they would have done it to me’ is his defence. But Duch was a senior leader in the regime and, as Rob has often said, it was those in positions of power who could have stopped the madness.

Rob arrived in Cambodia the week before to prepare his testimony with Alain Werner, the Swiss lawyer representing some of the ‘civil parties’. They have redrafted it numerous times, and on this Monday Rob farewelled us to go and complete it for his scheduled appearance the next day.

But mid-morning I get the call that he is likely to be on that afternoon, interrupting my, Rachel and Ivan’s numbing tour of Tuol Sleng. By the time we arrive at the crowded courthouse, thunder rumbling in the tropical sky, Rob is already in the courtroom and we are told that Ivan, being under sixteen, is not allowed in.

So we take up position in the media room next door and watch proceedings via closed-circuit TV. Rob’s appearance starts with the mundane identity questions, and then he embarks on the sad tale of his brother and family.

As he begins, at Rachel’s request, I call Rob’s sister who is looking after Ivan’s older brothers back in Te Pahu, handing her the phone when she answers – "Rob is on now," she says, signalling this moment none of them ever thought they would see.

The first picture he puts up on the screen is of the Hamill brothers in a dinghy when they were kids. In this sticky warm corner of South-East Asia, the dated image of young Kiwis is jarring, prompting the Western reporters in the room to jump up and snap shots of it. As Rob then tells what happened to two of the boys on that boat, Rachel quietly cries, Ivan asleep on her lap.

After half-an-hour of this gruelling testimony, the court takes a break, and suddenly Alain rushes into the room, as if he has jumped out of the screen, his lawyerly robe flapping, a bundle of energy suddenly exploding in the quiet room. He’s been sent by Rob to find Rachel, concerned that she isn’t in the courtroom with him. We explain that Ivan isn’t allowed in – "sort it out" I snap, sending Alain flying back out the door, only to return moments later to report they won’t budge. Rachel reluctantly hands me Ivan, waking the two-year-old. As she disappears the toddler objects, throwing his legs around, but eventually calming down.

When Rob resumes he starts by acknowledging his wife to the court and thanks her for her support. When he then puts up a picture of Kerry on the screen, Ivan calls out ‘Daddy!’, mistaking the uncle he’ll never know for his father. Rob continues to tell how the actions of Duch and co affected his family. As Ivan occasionally calls for his mum, it strikes me that his upset at her absence is yet one more tiny ripple of Duch’s cruelty all those years ago.

Around us, the international and local media watch riveted, Rob clearly making the most intense appearance in the months-long trial. When he says to Duch "there have been times when, to use your word, I have wanted to smash you", the Cambodians in the room, some listening to translation on headphones, gasp and laugh to each other, shaking their heads in disbelief. This reaction continues as he describes how in the past he has imagined Duch suffering the tortures he has visited on so many others. It is stirring and disturbing stuff, delivered by a man who is renowned for his bravery, strength and endurance, but who today shows an emotional vulnerability that is painful to watch.

Towards the end of his appearance, Rob gets the chance to ask Duch where his brother’s ashes are. Duch stands stiffly, and calmly claims that he simply doesn’t remember Kerry, though he does recall his British companion John Dewhirst .

And then it is over, and Rachel reappears to reclaim Ivan and we are all shown into a side room to see Rob. There is happiness of a sort, interspersed with a sombre realisation that while the family has finally had a chance to speak their minds to Duch, many questions still remain. Ivan jumps around on the couch behind his parents, happy to have his dad back. Rob looks numb, speaking softly, smiling occasionally, a feeling of unreality pervading the room.

Alain the lawyer appears and expresses his huge thanks and, his arms swinging around in an almost comically typical Gallic fashion, declares that Rob has just made the most decisive testimony of the trial.

With the crowds of the day gone, Rob steps out into the cool shadow of the building to talk to the media. He is composed, the emotion of the testimony subsided, his usual confident soap-box self to the fore again, the same as when I saw him speak at the opening of the Farmers Market at Claudelands a fortnight earlier.

The media session over, Sambath Reach, the court official who has ushered us around, steps forward to speak to the small clutch of Westerners. He expresses his deep thanks to Rob "on behalf of all Cambodians" for saying things that have not previously been said in the court and for standing up to Duch in a way no one has yet dared. Like every local over forty we meet, he lost several family members to the Khmer Rouge. As he speaks, we know we are standing at a point in history.

Sambath then invites Rob over to the court’s Buddhist shrine nearby. In the warm angled tropical sun, the tall late afternoon storm clouds stacked in the distance, the Kiwi and the Khmer stand before the canopied golden warrior statue and make an offering for Kerry and all the other poor souls who fell into the hands of that dreadful beast. The pair quietly discuss the shrine’s story, the calm of the moment a blessed relief. Rob bows to the statue and thanks Sambath, squeezing his hand and meeting his eye one last time.

And then he puts an arm around Rachel, picks up Ivan, and together the family walk off. Perhaps, just perhaps, the lost soul of a sailor from Whakatane, a beloved brother, can now finally rest in peace.

  • Rob's search for justice for Kerry is the subject of Brother Number One, a documentary by Pan Pacific Films to be released next year.
  • Mark Servian is a Hamilton writer, artist and activist.

Rob's victim testimony to Extraordinary Court Chambers of Cambodia

Video of Rob Hamill delivering the testimony below on Monday 17 August 2009
Part one
Part two
Part three


Tena koutou katoa
Greetings to all

I am deeply honored and moved to be given the opportunity to speak today. I realise that this is a privilege made available to few, especially compared to the numbers of families that suffered under the Khmer Rouge regime.

I arrived in Cambodia last week. Last Thursday, 13 August was coincidentally 31 years to the day that my brother Kerry Hamill first set foot on Cambodia soil.

The difference now is that I am here of my own volition.

This is the story of an innocent man brought to his knees and killed in the prime of his life and the impact his death had on just one family. It is my hope that other families likewise affected by the losses of this barbaric time can somehow relate to my statement and recognize that they are not alone in their grief.

This Court process – the trial and this sentencing hearing finally gives Kerry (and all of the other people that died at the hand of Duch and others) the opportunity for justice, acknowledgement and vindication.

Background – the Hamill family life before this tragedy

Your Honours, I strongly believe that my personal suffering cannot be understood unless the Chamber is properly informed of the background of my family, Kerry was part of a family which was torn apart due to the accused actions; a previously close knit outgoing and active family which was, in effect, destroyed along with Kerry at S-21. With Your Leave Mr. President I would like to briefly describe my family life before this tragedy.

My brother Kerry was the oldest son of five children to Esther and Miles Hamill .

Kerry grew up in Whakatane New Zealand along with us - his siblings - John, Peter, Sue and me (Rob).

We were a very outdoors focused family. We spent our days outside, really enjoying nature.
Kerry was very special to Mum and Dad.

We all were, but having children is pretty extraordinary life changing stuff and we knew, as first born, Kerry really was a very special child to them.

My second eldest sibling, John Hamill, was born 15 months after Kerry. In their youth the two were virtually inseparable. Together they sought out many adventures.

Photo of Kerry and John in dingy….

After going to university Kerry went to Australia to work in Sydney and develop his sailing skills.

His goal was sailing around the world.

When cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin in 1974, Kerry went up there to work and earn enough money to buy his own yacht.

While in Darwin, Kerry befriended Canadian, Stuart Glass.

The two eventually decided to each buy a 50% share in a yacht. A 28 foot double ended sloop named Foxy Lady

Photo of Foxy Lady with Kerry and Gail

Mr President, could the AV Unit be instructed to show photo 2.

They spent a fair bit of time and money repairing the boat and getting it ready to sail off on their adventures.

While in Darwin, Kerry met Gail Colley. Gail is an important part of this story and I will return, with your Honours leave, to talk more about her later on.

Kerry and Stuart then sailed from Darwin and began a series of wonderful adventures sailing up through South East Asia..

To earn money they would do day charters out to nearby islands for fishing, snorkeling and sight seeing.

Kerry wrote home regularly telling terrific tails of his adventures.

At home in New Zealand we would excitedly sit around the kitchen table while Dad read out each letter accompanied by our exclamations of awe and amusement at the many different sights and colorful cultures he was experiencing.

Occasionally a parcel of clothing would turn up to the extreme delight of my sister Sue and myself.

In one letter Kerry detailed how two Englishmen Neil and Bob got on board as paying passengers from Phuket to Penang. .

I met with both Neil and Bob earlier this year and they described to me their wonderful adventures with Kerry and Gail.

They said Kerry and Gail were clearly very much in love.

They believed the two would invariably get married, settle down and have children.

From all these things, Your Honours, I’m sure you can see that at 26 years of age Kerry was having the time of his life.

He and Gail were planning a life, and future family, together and we were all enjoying their adventures in the stories they were sending back to us in their letters.

The last letter we got from Kerry was sent from Singapore in July 1978. Fortunately, Gail left the boat at around this time to visit her family. She and Kerry planned to meet up a couple of months later.

We believe the men made for Bangkok but were blown off course in bad weather and took shelter behind Koh Tang Island.

Mr. President, my lawyer has appraised me of the situation regarding the content of S-21 confessions, however, with your permission, I would like to recall six sentences contained in the confession of John Dewhirst.

From our family’s perspective it is what we read 30 years ago and it affected us greatly at the time.

Whether it be fact of fiction it is what we believed to have happened to them and affected us accordingly.

Mr President, I recognise your discretion in this area and am therefore completely in your hands on this matter.

John described in his confession how the boat was attacked. He said:

“Shortly after dark I went below to make some porridge and suddenly a boat began to close in on us very quickly.

I was about to go up on deck when the boat opened fire and sent some shots over the mast so I stayed where I was and turned on our navigation light.

The gunboat came in closer and lit us with its spotlight.

Stuart was shot and Kerry helped him out to sea in a lifebuoy.

Kerry and I went over the side for safety and waited until the gunboat came in to pick us up.
He told me later that Stuart had died and had been buried at sea.”

Thank you Mr President, even if we do not know the precise details of the capture of Kerry we do know he was brought to S-21.

There, as part of the system of degradation and torture put in place by the accused he unquestionably suffered beyond all imagination. Yet despite this environment, the pressure to surrender to the pain, and futility and despair, Kerry’s confessions were lucid.

He was clever with what he said.

It is evident from both Kerry’s and John Dewhirst’s confessions that they were obtained under torture.

The men wove the patently untrue statement that they had “CIA training” into real facts about their life.

Again, Mr President, I am aware that the content of the confessions is not to be discussed before the Chamber – at this point, with your leave, I only wish to talk about certain names in the confession which lead my family and myself to believe it is entirely fictional.

I do not seek to rely upon or place any credence upon the supposed ‘factual’ content of the confession.

In his confession, Kerry stated that Colonel Sanders (of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, a popular chain of fast food restaurants) was one of his superiors.

He used our home telephone number as his CIA operative number and mentioned several family friends as supposed members of the CIA.

For instance, Colonel Perram was our father’s gliding instructor. Captain Dodds is an old mate of Kerry’s who still lives and Whakatane.

He also mentions a Captain Pepper which may well have been a reference to the Beetle’s album and he talks about a Major Rouse.

A ruse in English is a fraud or a confidence trick

Perhaps the most poignant comment in my brother’s confession was the mention of the public speaking instructor ‘ a Mr. S. Tarr’.

The instructor’s family name was spelt Tarr. Only the initial of the instructor’s first name S was given. S Tarr is in fact the name of my adoring mother Esther.

Esther Hamill. That’s my mother’s name

He was sending a message to our mother.

A message of love and hope. And it was as if, whatever the final outcome, he would have the last say.

Approximately three weeks after his capture, John Dewhirst had signed a confession and, I presume at that time, was executed.

Exactly two months after his capture my brother, Kerry Hamill, signed a confession and, I presume, at that time he too was executed.

I say presume because we still do not know exactly when or how either of the men were killed.

The Overall Impact Kerry’s death had on our family

Mr President, Kerry’s final letter arrived at our home on July 1978 . The silence after the arrival of that letter was deafening.

Your Honours, I need to explain the impact of this period, the impact which this period of crushing uncertainty had upon my family.

As you will be well aware your Honours, in any family, in every family, everyone is interconnected.

When a mother, a father, a sister or a brother suffers, all others suffer.

A family shares in happiness and warmth, a family shares in depression and misery.

My family’s suffering is my suffering, my family’s disintegration is my disintegration, my family’s pain is my pain.

As already described, Kerry used to write home about once a month.

Some weeks passed without any communication from Kerry.

The weeks turned to months still with no contact from Kerry.

As time went by we became more and more concerned that something was wrong.

Our family home was positioned at the mouth of the Whakatane River where it flows into the Pacific Ocean.

Towards the end of the year my mother, Esther, would gaze out to sea and say “It’s ok, he’ll turn up for Christmas to surprise us.”

We all half expected the yacht to appear over the horizon at any moment.

Mr President, you like myself, will perhaps remember the times before we lived in a world of instant communication – the days before mobile phones, the internet and 24/7 news.

It was in this time of letters and telegrams, which younger generations cannot appreciate, that my family waited, and waited for any news.

There was a desperate sense of hope in our household.

Christmas 1978 came and went, as did the New Year and there was still no news.

This was the first Christmas without the normal happiness – there was no excitement at New Years.

We were all thinking of the person missing from our lives; Kerry.

As time went by my parents became more and more anxious.

Still we hoped for a positive outcome but deep down we were all thinking the same thing; that something terrible had happened to my brother.

My father, Miles Hamill, wrote letters to the ports of Asia and the NZ Government requesting information about the Foxy Lady and any possible sightings.

He was trying to establish if any ship wrecks had been reported in the area.

Nothing of any consequence was reported back to my father.

When you are waiting to hear from a loved one, 16 months is a very very long time.

Your Honours one year 4 months of uncertainty passes like an eternity. In less than this period a new life can be conceived and born.

I was 14 when Kerry went missing and 16 when we found out the terrible news.

My two birthdays were a time of mute celebration.

The waiting without knowing and hoping while fearing the worst had been a terrible terrible time for our family.

As time went by the only thing we could cling to was hope.

I remember the day a neighbor rung us suggesting we go and get a copy of the local newspaper.

I went with my second eldest sibling John Hamill, to the local news agent and I recall the look of sympathy on the attendants face as he handed over the newspaper.

On this day, 16 months after Kerry’s capture, we got the news that Kerry had been captured, tortured and killed at the hands of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime.

My brother, had been captured, tortured and killed. Mr President, Nobody in the New Zealand Government had taken the time to contact my parents with this terrible news; all we had was the report staring out from the front of the newspaper.

We were devastated. All that hope was now extinguished.

I remember later that day standing in the kitchen hugging my father, both of us crying, for what seemed like a long time.

It was the closest I had ever felt to my father.

I find it difficult to describe the feeling of complete and utter love combined with sorrow I felt for my father at that moment.

In some ways it was a beautiful moment but was all consumed in the grief and shock of the tragedy that had occurred..

Never in our worst nightmares had we considered the reality of what had to Kerry.

Death, not by ship wreck, not by drowning or freak accident BUT Death by torture.

Death by torture not over a few seconds or minutes or hours or days or weeks even.

Death by torture over a period of months.

In the absence of Kerry’s body, a memorial service was held.

For the next 12 months my parents tried to ascertain the detail of what had happened and why the New Zealand Government still supported Pol Pot’s regime into the 80s.

At the same time they tried to sustain their business which was in decline and hold off bankruptcy.

Mr. President, Family life disintegrated. I would like to describe how my family struggled and perhaps failed to cope with Kerry’s death. With Your leave MR President, I’d like to begin by telling you about my brother John.

It is my conviction that what happened to John is directly linked to Kerry’s death at S-21, as such, his story is an important part of the damaged caused to my family

John Hamill (Kerry’s brother)

John was a year younger than Kerry. The two brothers had a very close bond.

John was a wonderful sensitive man that had the ability to make us all laugh to the point of tears. After Kerry went missing, that humor stopped.

During the 16 month time lag between Kerry’s capture and our discovery of what had happened, John displayed the affects of deep depression.

The arguments I had with him increased in number and intensity. These arguments sometimes turned violent.

The loss of his closest sibling had a massive impact on John.

Eight months after we found out what had happened to my eldest brother Kerry, my second eldest brother John took his own life.

He threw himself off a cliff near our family home.

My father Miles and my third brother Peter were the first to find John. They retraced his footsteps to the edge of the cliff and saw his body at the bottom on the rocks.

On the morning of John’s funeral I remember my mother administering pills to me and my other older siblings, Sue and Peter. I later found out that they were valium tablets.

It was an example of how my parents didn’t know how to deal with their grief.

There was so little in the way of effective support systems that they somehow thought it best to mask ones feelings in a cloak of prescription medicine.

I discovered later that morning that my father had been in such a bad way during the night that my mother had called for the doctor who administered strong sedatives.

It was enough to render my father unconscious for the next 24 hours.

He did not, could not, attend the funeral of John, his second son.

It was simply too much for him.

I feel he blamed himself for the death of his two eldest children. I think he felt he could have done more to protect them from harm.

Both Kerry George Hamill and John Dwyer Hamill died at the age of 27.

I find it difficult to separate the death of John from the death of Kerry.

I am certain that if Kerry’s life had been spared, John would not have taken his own life.

Duch, when you killed my brother Kerry, you also killed my brother John.

The effect these two devastating losses had on our family simply cannot be measured. They were massive and incomprehensible.

I often think how much better things might have been had Kerry’s life not been taken. It’s impossible to say.

Esther Hamill (Kerry’s Mother)

My mother Esther Hamill was possibly the most deeply affected by Kerry’s death. She was thinking about Kerry nonstop but not communicating that to us,

She was a very private woman in her own way but she was a very outgoing lady as well, very humorous, she had a great sense of humour.

That all changed after Kerry was captured. I never saw her cry, she was very strong, but as a result of that strength and holding her pain within, she became very sick.

Two years after we found out what happened to Kerry and about 18 months after John’s death, mum became bed ridden with painful arthritis. She was in bed for many months.

Her room was like a mausoleum.

I could barely bring myself to go into her room.

I avoided her, so much so that it feels to me like I abandoned her, right when she needed me most.

It must have felt to her like she had lost not one, not two but three sons, such was my lack of support.

I cannot forgive myself for that.

It took years for her to get her independence back but, though she rarely let on, her back was a continuous source of pain for her.

A few years later she was afflicted with shingles which is a disease of the nervous system. This illness took a long time for her to shake off.

During those years my mother was depressed but she didn’t express it in a way that I consciously understood. She was angry, she fought with Dad and she was very sad, very sad.

Mum stopped engaging with life, did less and saw less of her friends. She removed herself from all social interactions in the township.

For her remaining children however, she remained strong and supportive but I know that she longed to turn back time.

Her courage was illustrated when I was planning adventures of my own. Adventures that would put my life at great risk.

When I decided to enter the first ever rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean she said, “You go for it boy.”

My mother had witnessed the death of two beloved sons and here was a third son wanting to embark on crazy challenge that may well kill him; she continued to support me.

Every Christmas my mother would put on a brave face but at some point on Christmas Day she would disappear to visit John’s grave site and lay flowers as a memorial to her two boys.

My mother died 28 July 2003 after succumbing to leukemia - cancer of the blood. She died before seeing any measure of accountability for the tragic death of Kerry

Father – Miles Hamill.

My father Miles Hamill, took the death of Kerry and John very badly.

Over the years it was relatively common to be watching television and hear Dad in the kitchen doing mindless chores next door quietly weeping.

I knew at that point that he would have been crying for some considerable time before it progressed to being audible to where I sat in the room next door.

At these times Mum would stare at the television and try to block it out.

To a certain extent, I did the same. I didn’t offer Dad any sympathy or affection. For some reason I couldn’t.

The one moment of closeness that was shared between us the day we found out what happened to Kerry was all I could offer.

He was a business owner in partnership with his cousin. It was a business that his father and his uncle had set up and it was originally very successful.

After Kerry’s disappearance murder and John’s death, my father lost the ability to function effectively at work.

He couldn’t make the difficult decisions anymore and when hard financial times came along he didn’t respond the way he once might have.

He was forced to retire far too young.

Dad is aged 88 and is suffering from the affects of Alzheimer’s disease. He no longer recognises Kerry in photos.

I believe the pain of the last 30 years have taken a toll.

Miles and Esther as parents

I note on both my parent’s bravery through all this. There were many examples that illustrated how grief stricken they were.

They continued to do the best they could to be good parents to us, however, it is clear to me now, as a parent myself, that they were paralysed by the tragic loss of their son.

I remember clearly on one occasion how John openly beat me, punching me in the face, with my mother and father just a meter or two away.

Before the loss of Kerry this would be unimaginable in my house, my parents would never have allowed such behaviour.

But there they were, a meter away, allowing this to happen – they lost the ability to parent for a long time.

It was as if they were now paralyzed leaving them unable to continue their parenting duties.

At the time I didn’t know what to make of it but in reflection believe their reaction, or lack of it, was symptomatic of the psychology of their grief.

But they held on and perhaps we, their remaining children, were what kept them going. They hung in there, and were incredibly strong.

Peter Hamill (Kerry’s Brother)

Peter does not wish for me to talk about how Kerry Hamill’s torture and murder and subsequently John Hamill’s suicide affected him. I wish to acknowledge Peter at this time and send him my love

Sue Hamill (Kerry’s Sister)

My sister Sue Hamill was 16 years old when Kerry was snatched from his boat by the Khmer Rouge. She was 18 years old when she found out what had happened to him.

Sue has spoken to me about the subliminal fear she feels she has carried with her, consciously or otherwise, for the last 30 years. A fear that has influenced many of her decisions and life choices.

Mr President, with your leave I would like to read out just one or two lines of what Sue wrote to me, not only does it describe her feelings but it also encapsulates my suffering.

After shock, disbelief and anger there came the realisation that I could not do anything to bring back Kerry – he is gone forever. What then? I began to wonder how could one human do something unbelievably abhorrent to another human and to an innocent one?

Something had to fill the void where there was once hope and expectation of his return.

What filled that hole was my choice but I did not consciously choose fear.

Often it has only been in retrospect that I have understood why I deferred certain plans, sometimes indefinitely.

But slowly I have come to understand that deep hurts can cause a subtle kind of paralysis. Time is a very, very slow healer.

Rob Hamill (Me)

Mr President – as I already mentioned – the suffering and pain of my mother, father, brothers and sister was part of my own suffering.

The distressing aspect of Kerry’s death is the nature in which his life was taken. Ultimately, I do not know how Kerry finally met his fate

At best my brother was blind folded, taken out of the S21 compound to a pre-dug trench, made to kneel down beside it, hit over the head with a metal bar, his throat slit, then buried.

That was the best case scenario. Unfortunately, Kerry was regarded as a ‘special prisoner’, the type of prisoner the Duch Division was set up to look after.

It indicates that these prisoners received special attention, the thought of which makes my stomach turn.

It is also possible that Kerry, still alive, could have been made to sit in the middle of car tyres, covered in petrol and set alight.

When I think about what happened to my brother Kerry Hamill, I get the sense of the hopelessness, powerlessness and despair he must have felt while incarcerated and tortured in S21.

He must have been suffering terribly and yet:

He had no one to appeal to,

He had no one prepared to listen to his pain and anguish,

There was no way out and no vindication,

When I try to imagine how my brother Kerry would have responded in that environment, I feel sick to my core.

I know Kerry was physically and mentally strong.

He would not have succumbed easily. His will to live would have been evident.

Mr. president, I would like, with your leave to show one last photo, the photo that I imagine illustrates what Kerry suffered; if the AV unit could be directed to show photo 3.

[Photo from S21 of the aftermath of a man brutally beaten]

I know this individual may not have been Kerry, just another poor soul at S-21.

But the way he is shackled, the way he has been grotesquely beaten, the blood flowing from gaping wounds, yet the continuing struggle, the resilience.

This man’s struggle to hold onto life is evident.

He is moving, holding himself up ever so slightly off the floor .

For me, Mr President this is my gorgeous beautiful brother Kerry Hamill at S-21.

This is the sort of image that haunted me when I was 16 and still haunts me today; I have lost much sleep over this image.

The time frame Kerry was detained at S-21 also continues to trouble me.

From what I have been led to believe, the longer a prisoner remains in S21 the worse the torture got.

It has also my understanding that once prisoners signed confessions and put their thumb print to them that they were then executed.

Whereas John Dewhirst was detained for 3 weeks my brother endured a much longer stay in the compound.

His last dated confession was in 13 October 1978, two months to the day after his capture

When I think about the depravation, the degradation and the abuse that Kerry would have suffered, after 30 years my tears are still copious and I try not to think deeply about what he went through.

I can’t bear to think about it.

I think Kerry would have been very, very angry.

Angry to the point of outrage. Then I think there must have been stages when he felt that it was useless to resist.

That sense of powerlessness and hopelessness must have been incredibly difficult.

I have wondered how Kerry felt in those days in prison, deprived of food and water, dehumanized beyond belief and tortured.

Last year’s Republican nominee for the presidential elections in the United States of America John McCain, talked about his incarceration during a Vietnamese prison.

He described how he lost the will to live and attempted to commit suicide on more than one occasion.

I have wondered if Kerry tried to do the same.

As much as it hurts me to say it, I believe at some point in his incarceration my brother may have lost all hope and contemplated suicide as a welcome relief.

During the 16 month period Kerry was missing I, at 14 and then 15 years of age, took solace in alcohol, boozing it up in the pub or out somewhere with my friends.

I was 16 years old when the news of Kerry’s fate arrived. In the year that followed my nights out binging escalated in regularity and duration.

I was inebriated many nights of the school week. I developed a capacity to consume vast quantities of alcohol. I also worked diligently at speed drinking often winning drinking games against friends and strangers.

I would often end up violently ill, sometimes on the carpet of my bedroom after returning home in the late hours of the night.

I would often go to school with a hang over and my education accordingly suffered.

My parents were dealing with their grief in their own way and through no fault of their own either didn’t notice my antics or felt powerless to do anything about it.

In effect, for that period, I had lost not only my brother Kerry but my parents also.

When I was actually at home I was often having enormous arguments with my second eldest brother John.

As I mentioned before, on one extreme occasion these arguments turned violent.

Before losing Kerry and John we were an outgoing family but afterwards, mum and dad cut off many of their social contacts and that affected all our relationships.

As children we stopped meeting other children and families.

Our immediate family became a little bubble and we became very reluctant to interact at all.

Hilary and Gail.

Your Honours, I believe that a family is not necessarily limited to just blood relatives or family by marriage.

They are often family by circumstance.

There are two people who I consider to be family in this way and I ask your Leave Mr. President to allow me to very briefly refer to them.

The first is Hillary Holland, who is the sister of John Dewhirst. I contacted her three years ago and have since visited.

In the interim we have formed a strong bond in our shared grief. Such is Hillary’s grief that she, today, cannot say her brothers name out loud.

In our correspondence Hillary described her pain, and as I feel it also captures my own feelings, I would like to read you just 5 sentences of what she has written.

When I first heard of my brother's death and for a long time, I felt that if it was possible to die as a result of emotional pain then I would.

I could not see how my heart could continue to pump and my lungs to breathe.

The physical pain was so intense and that pain was continuous.

For me it is all to do with how they were killed.

Torture, I believe is dehumanizing. Both for the person who suffers that torture and the person perpetrating it.

Gail Colley

Mr President, I would now like to speak about Gail Colley, the love of Kerry’s life.

The two of them had plans to marry and have children.

Even now I cannot look at a beautiful picture I have of the two of them together without feeling deprived of such a wonderful sister in law and their planned children.

When Gail finally received the news of Kerry’s demise she too was devastated.

Gail never got married and she never had children.


Mr. President, to conclude, all the pain and suffering my family, Gail, Hilary and myself have had to endure was created to by one man, by the system of degradation, humiliation and torture he created; from the death camp he ran.

All this heart break, sorrow and human suffering has stemmed from the destruction of the life of my beautiful brother Kerry.

There are between 13,000 and 20,000 stories like ours – all stemming from the systems and practices and actions that Duch administered at S21.

At a personal level, this whole process has been demanding.

I have had to drag up all the memories and try to put them in perspective.

I have had to sit down and write about what you did to good people and the pain that you caused.

When the need and desire arises I can be incredibly focused. I’m tough. I’m determined.

And yet I sit before this court feeling frail and emotional.

I should feel shame for behaving so weakly. But I do not.

The only person in this court who should feel shame is that man standing before me.

Duch, at times I have wanted to “smash” you (to use your words) in the same way that you “smashed” so many others!

At times I have imagined you shackled, starved, whipped and clubbed viciously. I have imagined your scrotum electrified, being forced to eat your own feces, being nearly drowned and having your throat cut.

I have wanted that to be your experience, your reality. I have wanted you to suffer the way that you made Kerry and so many others.

However, while part of me has a desire to feel that way, I am trying to let go and this process is part of that.

Today, in this court room, I am giving to you all the crushing weight of this emotion – the anger, the grief and the sorrow, - I am placing this emotional burden on your head; for it is you who created this burden which no one deserves, it is you, who should bear the burden alone.

It is you who should suffer – not the families of the people you killed.

From this day forward, I feel nothing towards you; to me what you did removed you from the ranks of being human.

If anything, anything at all, is to come from this trial and from my statement on behalf of those I love,
i) let it be that the world takes notice of the evil that can happen when people do nothing,

ii) let it be that world decides that doing nothing is not an option.

Mr President, Your Honours, thank you for the opportunity to appear before this Chamber and express the pain and suffering that I, and my family, have endured due to the actions of the accused.

Thank you. Agon.

Statement and Questions

With your leave Mr. President, I would briefly like to address the accused on his acceptance of responsibility of the many crimes committed at S-21 and then go onto ask the accused, through the Bench, some brief questions.

Duch, I acknowledge you for pleading guilty.

I am angry beyond words with you for what you did but I acknowledge and respect your guilty plea.

Your acknowledgement is a small but significant contribution to addressing the harm that you have caused.

Those that have not pleaded guilty and do not accept the harm they have caused are doubly worthy of our hate and ridicule.

I request answers to the following 6 Questions.

You have proven to this court that you have a very good memory. Over a three year period there were less than 10 westerners at S21.

And it appears that there were never more than two westerners held there at any one time.
I ask you to please please answer these questions truthfully, even if the answers cause me pain. I will ask them now and await your reply.

What do you remember of my brother?

How long was Kerry in prison and when did you order his killing?

Was there a special branch dealing with the foreigners?
If so what were the procedures applied to them?

We have heard that Westerners were put in tyres and burnt alive. You have said in this trial that this didn’t happen but we believe that it did.

You said it did not happen because it would have been against your orders, however, we know of at least one instance of rape at S-21 which you have acknowledged – which according to yourself was against your orders.

So my question is, how can you be certain that one or several Westerners were not burned alive?

Where were the ashes of the Westerners disposed of?

Could you think of anything else concretely as to what you can do to help the victims including my family?

Media coverage of Rob Hamill's testimony at the Extraordinary Court Chambers of Cambodia

Below are links to online coverage of Rob Hamill's testimony at the Extraordinary Court Chambers of Cambodia on 17 August 2009.

Testimony video
Hamill takes stand in Khmer Rouge trial - Morning Report, Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Audio MP3
Index incl other formats

TV3 video
Rob Hamill speaks about testifying against Khmer Rouge - Campbell Live, Tuesday 18 August 09

Kiwi gives testimony at Khmer Rouge trial - 3News, Tuesday 18 August 09

Kiwi rower confronts his brother's killer in Phnom Penh - 3News afternoon, Tuesday 18 August 09

Full interview with Rob Hamill - 3News, Sunday 9 August 09

TVNZ video
Hamill tells his story to children of Cambodia - OneNews, Saturday 22 August 09

Hamill confronts Khmer Rouge commander - OneNews, Tuesday 18 August 09

Hamill confronts Khmer Rouge commander (shorter version) - OneNews afternoon Tuesday, 18 August 09

Kiwi rower heads to Cambodia to find justice - OneNews, Sunday 9 August 09

FROGBLOG (Green Party) - post by Rob's media liaison Mark Servian
Rob Hamill testifies in Cambodia


Editorial: Rob Hamill's act of courage
Last updated 13:00 21/08/2009

It's a holiday snapshot that has become almost unbearably poignant. The photograph shows Kerry Hamill and his girlfriend Gail on his sloop Foxy Lady, moored off Phuket.

She is blonde and tanned, wearing a red bikini and standing near the bow. He is seated beside her, smiling broadly, bearded and wearing only shorts.

But in a trip on that same boat from Singapore to Bangkok in 1978, Kerry was to be blown off course and into Cambodian waters.

He was captured by the Khmer Rouge and taken to Tuol Sleng prison where he was tortured and killed. He was 27.

Thirty-one years later there is another image to add to the story that of Kerry's younger brother Rob in a Cambodian court giving testimony against the man accused of Kerry's execution.

And the accused, the man once known as Comrade Duch, seated in the same courtroom, this time the quarry.

He was in charge of Tuol Sleng where up to 17,000 people died at the hands of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot.

Earlier this year Rob Hamill spoke to the Sunday Star Times of his need to forgive Duch, and his doubts that he could.

This week in his anguished testimony, he spoke of the way in which Duch had made himself less than human by what he had done.

Afterwards, Hamill said he wanted Duch imprisoned for life.

It may take him some time to forgive, and he may never be able to. Nor should anyone expect that of him.

But Hamill also said he didn't want Duch to die. He said "to want to kill another human being in retribution is to lower yourself to the level of the perpetrators of such heinous crimes".

This is, in a nutshell, the perfect answer to those who ever, anywhere, clamour for the death penalty, and it came from a person who has been deeply affected.

He appears to have been prompted by international coverage which he felt suggested he had indeed wanted the death penalty. Nothing in his testimony, however, says that is what he seeks.

This has been, to state the obvious, an extraordinarily difficult path for Hamill.

Three decades without resolution is a long time to wait. His determination to have his say, to confront his brother's torturer, has been characteristic of the man who has been an Olympian and has rowed across the Atlantic.

And he must have arrived at court not knowing what it would do to him emotionally.

A frequent difficulty for war crimes tribunals is establishing guilt, often in cases where the person on trial has avoided getting his own hands dirty. W

hat is unfolding in Cambodia appears a much more clearcut case. Assuming nothing unexpected happens Duch will, indeed, be imprisoned for life.

As he should be. But Cambodia does not have the death penalty so he will not be executed. And that is also as it should be.

As painful as it may be, the world's monsters should be locked away, not killed. Rob Hamill is absolutely right.

No wish to kill Duch: Hamill

Last updated 10:14 19/08/2009

New Zealander Rob Hamill is rejecting international headlines claiming he wishes to kill Kaing Guek Eav, the Khmer Rouge commander of the camp where his brother Kerry was murdered in 1978.

In his testimony to the UN-backed trial in Cambodia on Monday night, Mr Hamill said he had at times in the past 31 years imagined Eav, also known as Duch, suffering the same torture inflicted on so many people, but he has never wanted to action those thoughts.

Mr Hamill made it clear yesterday that he was never going to give in to those feelings, that the testimony itself was part of the healing process and he was pushing the emotional burden of the crimes back on to Duch.

"To want to kill another human being in retribution is to lower yourself to the level of the perpetrators of such heinous crimes."

Rob Hamill faces bother's killer

By JEFF NEEMS - Waikato Times
Last updated 09:57 18/08/2009

Hamilton man Rob Hamill faced his brother's alleged killer in a Cambodian court yesterday, but the former torture camp commandant claims he can not remember him.

Speaking to the Times from Phnom Penh shortly after testifying at the UN-backed trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch and the head of the notorious S21 prison camp under Pol Pot's Khymer Rouge regime, Mr Hamill was not surprised by Duch's claim he did not recall Mr Hamill's older brother Kerry.

Kerry Hamill is believed to have been one of a handful of Westerners killed in the camp between 1975 and 1979. Kerry Hamill's yacht strayed into Cambodian waters in 1978, and while exact details of his death remain unknown, he is believed to have been tortured and executed while in S21.

Duch has testified he carried out orders from the regime's late leader Pol Pot, and Mr Hamill said Duch continued with that defence when he gave the equivalent of a victim impact statement in Phnom Penh's Extraordinary Chambers of Courts of Cambodia.

"His out is that he was just taking orders. It was either that, or be killed himself."

An emotionally drained Mr Hamill said there was sense of relief at having made his statement, aimed at court judges and detailing the huge impact of his brother's death on the Hamill family. He was able to make extensive eye contact with Duch, who sat just metres from him.

"It was very difficult, but he was certainly very attentive," Mr Hamill said. "I didn't look at him that much when I was making my statement - I was really looking up at the judges."

Reading his statement from notes, Mr Hamill said he was able to look directly at Duch when he made "a couple of pointed comments", while Mr Hamill's wife Rachel noticed Duch nervously fidgeting during particularly emotional parts of her husband's testimony.

"I had some emotional moments in there," Mr Hamill said of his appearance, which lasted just under an hour. "I was wiping away a few tears as I was telling the story."

"Whenever I said things that were emotionally charged about him (Duch), he was shuffling, pretty nervy..."

Mr Hamill believed Duch to be a "very sharp cookie, playing the court really well". Mr Hamill was able to directly question Duch, and asked him how long his brother was interned for.

"But the answer I got was that he (Duch) didn't know...which was a bit disappointing. He just didn't remember."

"The longer Kerry was in there, the worse it would've been," Mr Hamill said. "I know he was in there for at least two months."

Mr Hamill said Duch recalled Kerry Hamill's British crewmate John Dewhurst, "and he just said they both were killed at the same time".

"He said specifically he remembered the British man, but not my brother. It is disappointing, and I find it hard to believe...they were brought in at the same time, two Westerners."

Mr Hamill said although somewhat surreal, events at the trial had transpired much as he had expected. While he had not neccessarily gained any more information about his brother's death, Mr Hamill said he felt it was significant to represent the estimated 17,000 people killed in the camp, and their families.

Feedback from lawyers participating in the trial was that Mr Hamill's statement and questioning had made a strong impact on the judges.

"It was pretty powerful, being in there, and being part of that. I really felt I got the message across that I wanted to."

The trip to Cambodia for the trial will be an integral part of a documentary on Mr Hamill's search for justice for his brother, entitled Brother No 1.


Rob Hamill confronts his brother's killer

Last updated 11:17 18/08/2009

Former NZ Olympic rower Rob Hamill, whose brother Kerry was tortured and slain by the Communist regime in Cambodia in 1978, wept as he confronted his brother's killer in court yesterday.

Hamill testified before the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Phnom Penh about the "massive and unquantifiable impact" the horrific death of his brother, 27, had on his family.

His family learned Kerry was dead 16 months after he disappeared. Their parents read in a newspaper that he was executed after two months in prison.

His parents were hugely affected by the appalling death.

"It changed them. They were never the same after it all happened," Rob Hamill told the court.

He was 14 when the awful news arrived.

"Death not by shipwreck, not by drowning or freak accident, but death by torture. Death by torture not over a few seconds or minutes or hours or days or weeks even," he said.

"They were terribly affected, as any parents would have been.

"The death of their first-born was the worst possible news for our family. He had not just been killed, he had been tortured."

Hamill, former Olympic and long-distance rower, said he had waited a long time to confront his brother's killer and relate the impact it had on his parents and siblings.

Hamill's mother is now dead and his father in a nursing home.

Hamill's wife Rachel and their two-year-old son were in the packed public gallery as he spoke for a full hour.

Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch as he is known, the man responsible for Kerry Hamill's death, listened impassively to the testimony as it was translated.

Duch, 66, has admitted murder but the five judges – New Zealander Dame Silvia Cartwright, a French national and three Cambodians – will decide his innocence or guilt after hearing all the evidence.

Dame Silvia was in court today to hear Hamill, who was accepted as a civil party.

Kerry Hamill was captured by the Khmer Rouge when the yacht on which he and friends were sailing strayed into Cambodian waters in August 1978.

Crewman Stuart Glass, a Canadian, was shot dead.
Hamill and Briton John Dewhirst were interrogated and tortured for two months before being killed in Phnom Penh's notorious Tuol Sleng Prison, run by Duch.

Thousands of Cambodians were killed at the prison.
Duch has pleaded the same defence as some of the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials after World War 2, maintaining he was simply carrying out orders and would have been shot had he not done so.

"Duch, at times I have wanted to smash you, to use your words. The same way that you smashed so many others," Hamill said, sitting in a suit and tie, his hands folded before him.

"Smash" was the euphemism the Khmer Rouge used when ordering executions.

"At times, I have imagined you shackled, starved, whipped and clubbed, viciously.

"I have imagined your scrotum electrified, being forced to eat your own faeces, being nearly drowned and having your throat cut."

Duch sat behind him, expressionless.

"I have wanted that to be your experience, your reality. I have wanted you to suffer the way you made Kerry and so many others (suffer)," Hamill said.

About a dozen Westerners were among the estimated 16,000 people held at the prison before being killed.

The communist regime's radical policies while in power from 1975-79 caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people nationwide by execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition.

Asked by judges for his response, Duch (pronounced DOIK) repeated his earlier testimony that he received orders to kill the Westerners and burn their bodies.

He asked for forgiveness from the victims' families, acknowledging that they had suffered miserably.

He said he was not offended by being blamed.

"Even if the people threw stones at me and caused my death, I would not say anything," he told the court.

Duch is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and murder, and could face a maximum penalty of life in prison. Cambodia has no death penalty.

His trial is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia. This resulted in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

ABC (Australia)

Brother can't forgive Killing Fields torturer

By New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie

Posted Wed Apr 1, 2009 2:07pm AEDT
Updated Wed Apr 1, 2009 5:46pm AEDT

A New Zealand Olympian whose brother was murdered by the Khmer Rouge hopes justice will come from the Cambodian trial of Kaing Guek Eav, aka Comrade Duch, the boss of a torture prison where at least 12,000 people were killed.

Rob Hamill represented New Zealand in rowing at the 1996 Olympics.

Two decades earlier his brother Kerry had been captured and killed by the Khmer Rouge when his yacht blew off course and into Cambodian waters.

Kerry, who was 28 at the time, was tortured and killed at Duch's Tuol Sleng prison.

On Tuesday Duch took the witness stand in his UN-backed trial to say sorry for his actions.

But Mr Hamill says he cannot ever be forgiven.

"It rings a little hollow. I mean I think Duch... must have been an ambitious man," he said.

"He didn't get to be commandant of that prison by accident and from what I heard, my understanding in the research that I have conducted, suggests that he was ruthless and clinical and cruel.

"I am going through a process where our family hasn't grieved properly. Personally I want to be able to forgive but I can't do that."

Wondering, hoping, waiting

Mr Hamill said that for a long time, he did not know what happened to his brother.

"My brother was sailing his yacht, taking a charter from Singapore up to Bangkok and got blown off course and ended up in Cambodian waters [and] got captured by a Khmer Rouge gunboat," he said.

"One of the guys on the boat - there were three of them - one was killed at that time and my brother and other charter, a guy from England, were taken back to Tuol Sleng.

"He was a regular letter writer to us when he was in his travels and his adventures and enjoying life and living it to its fullest, and they just stopped.

"We didn't know what happened for a long time. It was a good year wondering, hoping, before we found out what happened."

Mr Hamill says his family found out about Kerry's disappearance through the media.

"[I was] reading an article in a paper and it was on a radio station that particular day, that information had been sourced through Interpol," he said.

"All the prisoners - there were about a dozen or so Westerners that were captured during that three-year period - all were made to sign confessions that they were CIA agents and Interpol had some documents that were confirmed as my brother's handwriting."

Facing a killer

Although Mr Hamill feels he should be in Cambodia to witness the trial, he says circumstances will not not allow it to happen.

But he says he will travel to Cambodia to give a statement in coming months.

"I don't know when. It depends on the court process but certainly I hope to face Duch and make a statement on behalf of our family and the effect he had on our family in the hope that it aids in some way the sentencing process," he said.

"I am just going to tell the story and will describe the pain, the anxiety, the hope, the desperate hope.

"I think that was really, really hard on my parents in particular and they paid for it too with their health."

Mr Hamill is unsure what punishment Comrade Duch should receive.

"I don't know what to expect from this. If I could bring myself to believing Duch's words, that he can somehow see the error in his ways, there may spring a strange comfort," he said.

"I don't know ultimately, but it needs to be done."

Olympian wanted to kill Khmer Rouge torture boss

By New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie

Posted Tue Aug 18, 2009 11:00am AEST

A New Zealand man whose brother was murdered by the Khmer Rouge has told a war crimes court in Cambodia that he felt like killing the boss of the torture prison where his brother died.

Olympic rowing great Rob Hamill's brother Kerry was one of three foreigners killed by the Khmer Rouge after their yacht was blown off course into Cambodian waters in 1978.

Mr Hamill slowly read out his victim impact statement as the prison's chief Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, stood trial in Phnom Penh.

He told Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of 15,000 people, that he had ruined his family.

"At times I've imagined you shackled, starved, whipped and clubbed, viciously" he said.

Duch has admitted running the jail but insists he was not a big boss in the Khmer Rouge.

NEW ZEALAND HERALD (Associated Press (AP) story that ran internationally)

Brother of NZ victim rages at Khmer Rouge trial

7:09AM Tuesday Aug 18, 2009
By Sopheng Cheang

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - The brother of a New Zealander tortured and killed by the Khmer Rouge three decades ago has told the man who ordered the execution that he wished him a similarly gruesome fate.

Kerry Hamill was 28 when his yacht was blown off course into Cambodian waters in 1978, and he was captured by the radical communist regime. He and a shipmate, Briton John Dewhirst, were taken to Phnom Penh's S-21 prison and later killed.

Kerry's brother, Rob, wept as he testified at the trial of S-21's commander, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch - the first of five senior Khmer Rouge defendants to be tried by a U.N.-assisted tribunal and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions.

"Duch, at times I have wanted to smash you, to use your words. The same way that you smashed so many others," Rob Hamill said, sitting in a suit and tie, his hands folded before him. "Smash" was the euphemism the Khmer Rouge used when ordering executions.

"At times, I have imagined you shackled, starved, whipped and clubbed, viciously. I have imagined your scrotum electrified, being forced to eat your own faeces, being nearly drowned and having your throat cut," said Hamill, referring to some of the horrors faced by prisoners.

Duch sat behind him, expressionless.

"I have wanted that to be your experience, your reality. I have wanted you to suffer the way you made Kerry and so many others (suffer)," Hamill said.

About a dozen Westerners were among the estimated 16,000 people held at the prison before being killed. The communist regime's radical policies while in power from 1975-79 caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people nationwide by execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition.

Rob Hamill, 45, a rower who represented New Zealand at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, said his family learned of his brother's death 16 months after he disappeared. Their parents read in a newspaper that he was executed after two months at S-21.

"Death not by shipwreck, not by drowning or freak accident, but death by torture. Death by torture not over a few seconds or minutes or hours or days or weeks even," said Hamill.

Asked by judges for his response, Duch (pronounced 'Doik') repeated his earlier testimony that he received orders to kill the Westerners and burn their bodies.

He asked for forgiveness from the victims' families, acknowledging that they had suffered miserably.

He said he was not offended by being blamed.

"Even if the people threw stones at me and caused my death, I would not say anything," he told the court.

Duch is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and murder, and could face a maximum penalty of life in prison. Cambodia has no death penalty.

His trial is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.
- AP

About Brother Number One

“Brother Number One” was the name that Pol Pot, the leader of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia, gave himself. Kerry Hamill was also “brother number one” the oldest boy in the large Hamill family of Whakatane, New Zealand. In 1978, the lives of the two “brother number ones” collided.

Kerry Hamill was on board his charter yacht Foxy Lady with two other men when they anchored at Koh Tang Island to shelter from a storm. Unbeknownst to them they had entered Kampuchean waters, neither did they know of the horror story that was unfolding on the mainland. They had sailed from the hippie era of “love and freedom” into Year Zero. Along with Englishman John Dewhirst, Kerry was seized and tortured for two months at the Khmer Rouge slaughter house, Tuol Sleng (S21). After signing confessions that “admitted” CIA affiliations, they were executed on Pol Pot’s orders. A third companion Canadian Stuart Glass was shot and killed when the boat was captured. Some would say he was the lucky one.

Our documentary Brother Number One follows Kerry’s younger brother Rob Hamill, an Olympic and Trans-Atlantic rowing champion, as he travels to Cambodia. Rob will attempt to discover the most probable scenario surrounding the capture, incarceration, and murders of his brother and sailing companions. He will travel with Cambodian translator Chantou, a survivor of the killing fields who will tell her story in parallel with Rob’s. Together they will explore the devastating impact of Pol Pot’s maniacal ideology—which saw 2 million killed through execution, starvation and sheer hard work. The film will interweave the history of Cambodia with their journey. The former French colony was sucked into the Cold War; bombed illegally by Nixon and Kissinger; suffered four years of Khmer Rouge brutality; was invaded by the Vietnamese; then in a twist of realpolitik, saw the greatest war criminals since the Third Reich aided and abetted by China, the US and the Western powers. Many Cambodians today remain ignorant of their history, their lives marked by poverty, HIV, and violence.

Rob’s journey will culminate in a confrontation in court with Kaing Khek Iav, better known as Comrade Duch, former Commander at S-21, who gave the final orders for Kerry and John to be tortured and killed. Up to 14,000 Cambodians met the same end in the notorious prison. After 30 years of impunity, Duch and four former “Brothers” are currently standing trial for Crimes Against Humanity, homicide and torture in the Extraordinary Court of Cambodia, a war crimes tribunal that was finally established this year after a decade of international wrangling.

The film will be directed by award-winning filmmaker Annie Goldson (Punitive Damage, Georgie Girl, An Island Calling) and produced by Pan Pacific Films.

Meet the Makers

Producer/Director: Annie Goldson is a filmmaker, whose award-winning feature documentaries – which include An Island Calling, Punitive Damage, Georgie Girl, Sheilas: 28 Years On, Pacific Solution and Elgar’s Enigma – have received over 30 awards internationally at film festivals. They have also been broadcast on most major channels, including HBO, PBS, ABC, SBS, Channel 4 (UK), ARD and others. An Island Calling (2008), funded by TV3/NZOA with an SBS presale, recently won Best Documentary and Achievement in Camera at the Qantas Film and Television Awards. Annie was also a finalist in the Achievement in Directing category. The documentary subsequently won Best Documentary and Best Director at the Madrid Lesgai International Film Festival, and the Grand Prix at FIFO, the Oceania Festival in Tahiti. The film premiered at Hotdocs in Toronto and screened at a number of international festivals including Sydney, Melbourne, FIPA, Seattle, Frameline and Newfest. She is also a writer and academic and received her PhD from the University of Auckland where she teaches in the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies. Annie received the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2007 as recognition for services to film. As well as working on Brother Number One, she has a science series Mismatch: Why our world no longer fits our bodies in development for international broadcast.

Originating Producer: James Bellamy has worked in the film industry for over 24 years in a variety of roles, primarily as a documentary producer/director on award-winning documentary, arts and lifestyle series. He has completed three documentary features as an independent producer, which has involved him in extensive international production. He directed and produced Art in the Freezer to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Scott Base in Antarctica. The film was introduced on-air by Sir Edmund Hillary. Given this latter experience and his enthusiasm for longer-form documentary, James is now intending to dedicate himself to projects such as Brother Number One.

Key Documentary Subject/Producer: Rob Hamill rowed for New Zealand for 16 years winning World Championship Silver and Commonwealth Gold. He holds a world record on the indoor rowing machine and competed at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Rob is also a writer, publishing The Naked Rower, an account of how he and Phil Stubbs won the first trans-Atlantic Rowing Race in 41 days. Since his ocean adventure Rob has often considered tracing the wake left by his brother Kerry to discover what really happened in Cambodia. That time has come.