Khmer Rouge defense lawyers announce boycott of genocide trial

[JURIST] Defense lawyers for former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan announced Saturday their intent to boycott the second trial against their clients in the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) until the lawyers have had time to appeal the men's earlier conviction. In August the ECCC found Chea and Samphan guilty of crimes against humanity [JURIST report] committed between April 1975 and December 1977 in Cambodia. Their lawyers filed appeals against the convictions in September, but argued that they needed to devote their full time and attention to the appeals process [AFP report] before they could attend to the second trial against Chea and Samphan for genocide [press release]. The second trial against the two men, which opened Friday, would be the first trial judging charges of genocide [JURIST report] against Cambodia's 1970s Khmer Rouge regime [JURIST news archive], with the prosecutor saying it will show that Cambodians were enslaved in inhumane conditions that led to the deaths of 1.7 million people from starvation, disease and execution.

The first case against the former leaders began in 2010, but the court did not hear closing arguments [JURIST report] until last year. The ECCC, established in 2001, has run into several controversies in its history. Last year the tribunal was forced to obtain a loan [JURIST report] to pay striking workers to cover unpaid salaries. The strike began [JURIST report] earlier that month. Also that month the ECCC's international prosecutor announced his resignation [JURIST report] from the tribunal. The Khmer Rouge have been blamed for the deaths of nearly 2 million people between 1975 and 1979 during the reign of group leader Pol Pot [BBC profile]. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported last September that the refusal by the government of Cambodia to pay Cambodian staff at the ECCC [JURIST report] was an attempt to undermine efforts to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice.

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