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Former Cambodia Head of State denies committing genocide

[JURIST] Cambodia's former head of state on Friday rejected charges of crimes against humanity in his UN-assisted tribunal. The 85-year-old Khieu Samphan, who was head of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, said [AP report] the allegations were concocted by neighboring country Vietnam. Samphan denied knowing about the forced marriages, executions, and starvations that occurred during the regime and asserted that he only found about the suffering after the rule ended. Commenting on the trial, Samphan stated "I want to bow to the memory of all the innocent victims but also to all those who perished by believing in a better ideal of the brighter future and who died during the five-year war... Their memory will never be honored by any international tribunal." Samphan's co-defendant, Nuon Chea, did not appear in court but his lawyers stated that the tribunal was a "show trial" and "victor's justice." The two men [BBC backgrounder] are already serving life sentences for crimes against humanity.

Cambodia continues to struggle with the legacy of the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder], an extremist group that attempted to set up an agrarian socialist society in the nation in the mid- to late-1970s. In December Cambodia's Khmer Rouge Tribunal charged [JURIST report] Meas Muth, the Khmer Rouge's ex-navy commander, with genocide, crimes against humanity and other crimes. In March of last year, the tribunal charged [JURIST report] former Khmer Rouge member Cadre Ao An with crimes against humanity for his role in the maintenance of an execution site and two security centers during the Democratic Kampuchea. Earlier that March Human Rights Watch called on [JURIST report] the Cambodian government to act on criminal charges brought against former Khmer Rouge leaders. The Khmer Rouge have been blamed for roughly 1.7 million deaths between 1975 and 1979 while leader Pol Pot was in power.

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