Ex-Khmer Rouge genocide trial opens in Cambodia News
Ex-Khmer Rouge genocide trial opens in Cambodia

[JURIST] The first trial judging charges of genocide against Cambodia’s 1970s Khmer Rouge regime [JURIST news archive] opened on Friday 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. Khieu Samphan, the regime’s head of state and Nuon Chea, the closest advisor to the group’s former leader Pol Pot [BBC profile], were convicted of crimes against humanity and given life sentences in August. Samphan and Chea both appealed their convictions and on Friday called for postponing further trial sessions. According to the genocide charges, Pol Pot and senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge intended to wipe out members of the country’s Muslim Cham and Vietnamese ethnic minorities. An estimated 90,000 to 500,000 Chams were killed during the regime and hundreds of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese were forced to flee. Virtually all of those who remained were executed. In addition to genocide charges, a second trial [AP report] will judge for the first time accusations of rape and forced marriages.

In August the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) found former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan guilty of crimes against humanity [JURIST report] committed between April 1975 and December 1977. The 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 has been blamed for the deaths of more than 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution between 1975 and 1979. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that the refusal by the government of Cambodia to pay Cambodian staff at the ECCC was an attempt to undermine efforts to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice.