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The Conviction of Cambodian Khmer Rouge Leaders– Justice at last?

Published on September 18, 2014        Author: 

On 7 August 2014, the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) delivered its second trial judgment. This lengthy decision addressed the criminal responsibility of the two remaining ‘senior leaders’ of the Democratic Kampuchea regime that are the subject of Case 002: Noun Chea (Pol Pot’s second in command) and Khieu Samphan (the President of the State Presidium and the ‘public face’ of the regime). Both were convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment, the maximum penalty available under the ECCC Law. The Chamber also endorsed a number of reparations projects requested by civil parties. The judgment is significant for its detailed consideration of one of the most vivid images of the Khmer Rouge era – the evacuation of Phnom Penh and other cities, and whether this population movement was contrary to international law.

Case 002 concerns crimes committed throughout Cambodia during the entire period of the Democratic Kampuchea regime, which existed from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979. It is one of the most complex cases to be conducted before an international or internationalised criminal tribunal. Recognising this, as well the uncertain nature of funding for the ECCC and the fear that the advanced age of the accused meant there was a real possibility that they would not live to judgment, the Trial Chamber severed Case 002 into separate trials in September 2011. The judgment delivered in August is the first in this series of trials (hence Case 002/01), and is limited to considering three crime ‘sites’ only: the evacuation of the population of Phnom Penh (and other cities) into the countryside in April 1975 (first population movement); a further movement of the population between various zones from September 1975 to at least December 1977 (second population movement); and the execution of former Khmer Republic officials and soldiers in connection with the first population movement, in particular the executions committed at Tuol Po Chrey in April 1975. All other crime sites and policies are to be considered in future ‘mini-trials’. Read the rest of this entry…