Court upholds life terms for 2 Khmer Rouge leaders
A special Cambodian court yesterday upheld the life sentences for the two most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime, which was responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people. The court said the massive scale of the crimes showed the two men’s complete lack of consideration for the lives of the Cambodians. The Supreme Court Chamber said the 2014 verdict by a UN-assisted Khmer Rouge tribunal was “appropriate” given the gravity of the crimes and roles of the two — Khieu Samphan, the 85year-old Khmer Rouge head of state, and Nuon Chea, the 90-year-old righthand man to the communist group’s late leader Pol Pot. “It is a historic day for Cambodia. For the first time in 41 years someone in the national leadership has been held criminally responsible for the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge regime,” said tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen. The two — who were sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity including extermination, enforced disappearances and political persecution — sat impassively as the lengthy verdict was read out. They were detained in 2007 and started serving their sentences in 2014 inside the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s facility, where conditions are much better than ordinary Cambodian prison. They have access to radio and television. About 1.7 million people are estimated to have died from starvation, disease and execution due to the extremist policies of the communist Khmer Rouge when they held power from 1975 to 1979. “I waited for this moment for 40 years. It has now arrived,” said Seak Ny, a 64-year-old woman whose husband died of starvation under the Khmer Rouge regime. She said the Khmer Rouge also killed her older brother and his five children when they found out he was a former soldier in the government they ousted. “Today I am happy because these people have received justice,” she said, adding that she came to the tribunal to see the faces of the Khmer Rouge leaders.