Court up­holds sen­tences for Kh­mer Rouge lead­ers

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Cam­bo­dia’s UN-backed court up­held life sen­tences for two top for­mer Kh­mer Rouge lead­ers yes­ter­day for crimes against hu­man­ity, in a ver­dict wel­comed by sur­vivors of the bru­tal regime. “Brother Num­ber Two” Nuon Chea, 90, and ex-head of state Khieu Sam­phan, 85, were the first top lead­ers to be jailed in 2014 from a regime re­spon­si­ble for the deaths of up to two mil­lion Cam­bo­di­ans from 19751979. They ap­pealed their con­vic­tions, ac­cus­ing the court of a string of er­rors and the judges of fail­ing to remain im­par­tial due to their per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences un­der the regime.

In a lengthy rul­ing yes­ter­day after months of hear­ings, the bench up­held the bulk of the con­vic­tions and the jail terms, but ac­cepted some le­gal er­rors had been made in the ini­tial trial. Kong Srim, the Supreme Court Cham­ber’s top judge, said the pair “had a com­plete lack of con­sid­er­a­tion for the ul­ti­mate fate of the Cam­bo­dian pop­u­la­tion”, adding that the scale of their crimes was “mas­sive”. “The Supreme Court Cham­ber con­sid­ers that the im­po­si­tion of a life sen­tence for each of the ac­cused is ap­pro­pri­ate,” he said.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Sam­phan sat im­pas­sively as the de­ci­sion was read out. The Kh­mer Rouge regime dis­man­tled mod­ern so­ci­ety in Cam­bo­dia in their quest for an agrar­ian Marx­ist utopia, killing vast numbers and leav­ing a gen­er­a­tional scar. “I am so happy with the con­vic­tions,” Ch­hun Leap, 74, who lost around 50 rel­a­tives dur­ing the Kh­mer Rouge years, told AFP after leav­ing the court­room. “They are mon­sters and this is their fate.”

Few brought to jus­tice

The tri­bunal, known as the Ex­traor­di­nary Cham­bers in the Courts of Cam­bo­dia (ECCC), is a com­plex hy­brid court on the out­skirts of Phnom Penh com­bin­ing el­e­ments of in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic law. It was set up fol­low­ing an agree­ment be­tween Cam­bo­dia and the United Na­tions to pros­e­cute se­nior Kh­mer Rouge lead­ers. The num­ber of al­le­ga­tions against Nuon Chea and Khieu Sam­phan-and the com­plex­ity of their cases-was so vast that the court split their tri­als into a se­ries of smaller hear­ings in 2011, fear­ful the pair might die be­fore jus­tice could be served.

Their con­vic­tions in Au­gust 2014 fol­lowed a twoyear trial fo­cused on the forced evac­u­a­tion of around two mil­lion Cam­bo­di­ans from Phnom Penh into ru­ral la­bor camps and the mur­ders of hun­dreds of en­emy sol­diers at one of sev­eral ex­e­cu­tion sites. Nuon Chea and Khieu Sam­phan are also cur­rently un­der­go­ing a sec­ond trial for geno­cide of eth­nic Viet­namese and Mus­lim mi­nori­ties, forced mar­riage and rape. But the tri­bunal has had mixed suc­cesses. De­spite the sheer bru­tal­ity un­leashed by the Kh­mer Rouge, sur­vivors have seen just a hand­ful of per­pe­tra­tors brought to jus­tice. Many key lead­ers have died with­out fac­ing jus­tice, in­clud­ing “Brother Num­ber One” Pol Pot who passed away in 1998.—AFP

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