The Supreme Court Chamber [official website] of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia upheld [materials] the life sentences of two top Khmer Rouge [BBC profile] officials Wednesday while reversing in part and affirming in part a list of their convictions. The court held the convictions of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for crimes against humanity of murder, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts as they related to the 1975 evacuation of the capitol, Phnom Penh. Similar charges were affirmed for actions taken from 1975-1977 while the regime forcefully transferred civilians out of cities and into rural labor camps [Al Jazeera report] resulting in the execution, torture and starvation of victims. The court also reversed numerous other convictions, mostly for insufficient evidence. However, the court ultimately upheld the life sentences of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, finding the totality of the weight of their crimes against them.
Cambodia continues to struggle with the legacy of the Khmer Rouge, 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. Also in March 2015 the ECCC charged [JURIST report] district commander Im Chaem and navy chief Meas Muth, with homicide and crimes against humanity, despite a warning by the country’s prime minister not to add the defendants. Cambodia’s UN-backed tribunal restarted genocide hearings in a separate case in January 2014 after a delay in which defense lawyers refused [JURIST reports] to participate. The Khmer Rouge have been blamed for roughly 1.7 million deaths between 1975 and 1979 while leader Pol Pot was in power.