Victim of the Khmer Rouge: Christopher Howes, who was abducted and killed in Cambodia in 1996
By Leah Hyslop
02 Mar 2011
Christopher Howes, a 37-year-old British mine-clearing expert, was kidnapped and killed by former Khmer Rouge rebels in March 1996 when he was working to clear mines in north western Cambodia.
Last week, an appeals court in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh upheld 20-year prison sentences for three men accused of committing the murder, as well as a 10-year prison sentence for a fourth man who was involved in the kidnapping.
Mr Howes, who worked for the international mine-clearing charity the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), was abducted along with around 30 Cambodian colleagues near Angkor Wat, the historic temple complex, and taken to a Khmer Rouge base in Anlong Veng. Mr Howes was told he could leave to fetch a ransom, but refused to leave his co-workers behind. The Cambodian workers were eventually released, but Mr Howes and his translator, Houn Hourth, were killed.
The exact facts surrounding the disappearance of Mr Howes, originally from Somerset, and his translator did not emerge until many years after the event. Two of the four men accused of killing the pair rose to significant positions of power after the end of Cambodia's civil war, with one becoming an army general and another becoming a prominent civil servant. The group were finally tried and convicted in 2008.
On hearing the verdict, Pat Phillips, Mr Howes' sister, said: "My father Roy Howes and I had hoped with all our hearts that the sentences handed down by the Municipal Court would be upheld, and we are both hugely relieved to hear that the men convicted of killing my brother Christopher and his friend Houn Hourth remain in prison today.
“We’d like to pass our sincere thanks to the court for ensuring that the men guilty of their murder have not escaped justice, and especially the lawyers working on our behalf and staff from the British Embassy in Phnom Penh, who have shown us unwavering support throughout this process.”
Lou McGrath OBE, chief executive of MAG, said: “I am hugely pleased and relieved for Chris and Houn’s family, who continue to show true honour in diligently ensuring justice for their murders is upheld. MAG will never forget Chris, or the sacrifice he made for the people of Cambodia, and I too am grateful to the Municipal Court Judges who overturned this appeal.”
The Khmer Rouge were the followers of the ruling party of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Working under their leader Pol Pot, they were responsible for the execution of hundreds of thousands of people, and continued to function as a guerrilla movement for several decades after the regime was overthrown.
Mr Howes was awarded one of the highest awards for bravery, the Queen’s Gallantry Award, posthumously in 2001.