The U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal held its ultimate session Thursday, rejecting an attraction by the final surviving chief of the brutal regime that dominated Cambodia from 1975-79, one in all solely three males convicted within the 16-year trial course of.
Led by the infamous Pol Pot, the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge killed some 1.7 million Cambodians by hunger, overwork, or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia. They have been lastly faraway from energy by Vietnam, which invaded Cambodia in 1979.
The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, formally referred to as the Extraordinary Chambers within the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), was set as much as maintain former Khmer Rouge leaders to account for the deaths.
Khieu Samphan, 91, misplaced his attraction of his 2018 conviction and life sentence for genocide, crimes towards humanity and struggle crimes for his management position in Khmer Rouge.
Khieu Samphan, who’s serving a life sentence for a 2014 conviction for crimes towards humanity, had argued he was the titular head of state with out decision-making powers within the Khmer Rouge regime throughout its bloody revolution and reign of terror.
His attraction towards his 2018 genocide conviction asserted that the decrease court docket had made greater than 1,800 errors, however the ECCC Supreme Court docket rejected just about all his arguments.
“I’m sad with the Supreme Court docket’s misunderstanding concerning the info of the case that led to the conviction. The misunderstanding together with his position within the Khmer Rouge,” stated Khieu Samphan’s lawyer, Kong Sam Onn.
A ‘clear individual’
Khieu Samphan, his lawyer stated, was “a clear individual amongst different Khmer Rouge leaders” and “didn’t have the facility to make any selections throughout conferences.”
“The court docket wished to convict him earlier than he dies. The court docket wished to hurry up the case to ensure the decision is launched earlier than Khieu Samphan dies,” stated Kong Sam Onn.
Whereas many welcomed the decision, some former Khmer Rouge troopers defended Khieu Samphan and stated members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian Individuals’s Celebration (CPP) who have been former Khmer Rouge leaders must be dropped at trial as nicely.
Former Khmer Rouge soldier Thong Thun within the western Cambodian province of Pailin stated agreed with Khieu Samphan’s protection that he didn’t have energy throughout his time as a ruler.
“The court docket shouldn’t put him in jail for the remainder of his life. It’s embarrassing,” he instructed RFA Khmer.
“These different killers are nonetheless strolling free and only some have been convicted,” he stated, referring to members of the CPP who have been former Khmer Rouge.
Hun Sen, who was a middle-ranking commander with the Khmer Rouge earlier than defecting, has dominated Cambodia with an iron fist since 1985.
One other former soldier, who requested to not be named, dismissed the trial as a present to punish some former Khmer Rouge leaders whereas letting others get away with crimes.
“The court docket shouldn’t put (Khieu Samphan) in jail for the remainder of life, he’s getting previous,” he stated.
Some observers have questioned the advantage of a authorized course of that took $337 million and 16 years to however convicted solely three males, two of whom are useless.
Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s No. 2 chief and chief ideologist, was convicted together with Khieu Samphan and was serving a life sentence when he died in 2019 at age 93.
The tribunal’s third convicted Khmer Rouge determine was of Kaing Guek Eav. Also referred to as Duch, commandant of the infamous Tuol Sleng jail, he died in 2020 at age 77 whereas serving a life sentence for crimes towards humanity, homicide and torture. The highest Khmer Rouge chief, Pol Pot, died within the jungle in 1998 at age 72.
Patrick Murphy, the U.S. ambassador in Phnom Penh, issued an announcement saying the tribunal “leaves an necessary legacy detailing a number of the worst crimes towards humanity in trendy historical past and making contributions to reality, reconciliation, and justice within the Kingdom of Cambodia.”
Former ECCC investigator Craig Etcheson instructed the Related Press the court docket “efficiently attacked the long-standing impunity of the Khmer Rouge, and confirmed that although it’d take a very long time, the legislation can meet up with those that commit crimes towards humanity.”
“The tribunal additionally created a unprecedented file of these crimes, comprising documentation that will likely be studied by students for many years to come back, that can educate Cambodia’s youth concerning the historical past of their nation, and that can deeply frustrate any try and deny the crimes of the Khmer Rouge,” stated Etcheson, who was chief of investigations for the prosecution on the ECCC from 2006 to 2012.
Translated by Samean Yun. Written by Paul Eckert.