Author Topic: Genocide Trial Begins for Khmer Rouge Leaders  (Read 3322 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline mayya

  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 7874
Genocide Trial Begins for Khmer Rouge Leaders
« on: October 19, 2014, 12:59:19 PM »
Genocide Trial Begins for Khmer Rouge Leaders

OCT. 17, 2014

Khieu Samphan, left, and Nuon Chea are on trial on charges of crimes against humanity, as well as genocide and war crimes. CreditReuters
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Hearings began on Friday into the most far-reaching charges, including genocide, against two former leaders ofCambodia’s Khmer Rouge in what is likely to be the last chance to seek justice for 1.7 million deaths during their disastrous 1970s rule.
The defendants, Nuon Chea, 88, and Khieu Samphan, 83, the most senior surviving leaders of the group, were sentenced to life in prison in August for masterminding mass evacuations of Cambodians from their homes. They have appealed those convictions.

The trial that began Friday, expected to last until 2017, covers a broader range of crimes against humanity, as well as genocide and war crimes. It will address accusations that the Khmer Rouge ran work camps that enlisted Cambodians as slave laborers to build dams and airports and ran execution sites where those who fell afoul of the government’s policies were slaughtered, and will consider charges of genocide committed against Muslims and ethnic Vietnamese minorities.

“Of all the crimes in Democratic Kampuchea, there were none graver than the relentless and systematic effort of the senior Khmer Rouge leaders to identify and smash those they feared could one day oppose them,” said Chea Leang, one of the prosecutors. Democratic Kampuchea was the name of the state headed by the Khmer Rouge during their rule from 1975 to 1979.
The first witnesses will appear later this month to testify about work sites in Tram Kak, the “ideological center” of the Khmer Rouge movement, where collectivized labor and communal living, the hallmarks of the rule, were enforced with extreme brutality.

Mr. Nuon Chea is often described as the Khmer Rouge movement’s chief ideologue and was second-in-command to Pol Pot, the leader of the movement who died in the jungles of northwestern Cambodia in 1998. Mr. Khieu Samphan, a former teacher and Parliament member, joined the revolutionary Communist movement out of frustration with the corruption and decadence of 1960s-era Cambodia and became the Khmer Rouge’s head of state in 1976.

The tribunal, a joint effort of the Cambodian government and the United Nations, had split the case against the men into two trials to expedite a verdict.

Both defendants said in court Friday that they would boycott the second trial because they were unhappy over the way it had been split. Mr. Nuon Chea rose to criticize judges for what he said was a lingering bias against him. He said he had been “hurt” by the court’s refusal to acknowledge the role that aggression by neighboring Vietnam played in the Khmer Rouge killings, and vowed that he would not come back to court until his motion for their disqualification had been heard.

Mr. Khieu Samphan and his lawyers also walked out of court, to work on their appeal against his first conviction, they claimed.

During opening statements, Ms. Chea Leang said this phase of the trial was necessary to achieve justice for the dead.

“For those who have asked why we need another trial when these accused have already received life sentences, the answer is simple: We are here because of the millions of Cambodians who did not survive this regime, for whom the three years, eight months and 20 days of Democratic Kampuchea meant only toil and dust, suffering and grief, pain and death.”

Critics describe the tribunal, which began its proceedings more than two decades after the rule of the Khmer Rouge, as too little, too late and too costly. The total administrative cost of the court, which is largely being borne by Western donor nations, has risen to nearly $230 million.

More than 100 survivors of the regime protested outside the courthouse on Friday, demanding financial compensation. They are among 4,000 Cambodians who have filed claims as plaintiffs in the case and are known as civil parties. They are allowed more rights to participate in trials than at other international courts, but they are not entitled to individual monetary awards. At the end of the first trial phase, the court awarded them “collective and moral” reparations, including public memorials and Buddhist stupas, a national day of remembrance, and psychological care for regime victims.
The protesters said that they wanted about $13,000 for each victim and that they would also try to extract the money from countries that supported the Khmer Rouge, such as China.

Many civil parties are indigent, and few can afford the relatively high standard of health care and accommodation being provided to Mr. Nuon Chea and Mr. Khieu Samphan.

“The court is taking better care of the suspects than us,” said Heng Bunngeth, one of the aggrieved victims. “When they were sick, they got care from a doctor, but we don’t have that. The court uses us as tools to make them look good.”

Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the tribunal, said it was the civil parties’ own lawyers who designed the reparation projects they were awarded. The court, he said, “has been adamantly clear since 2006 in its outreach program that only collective and moral reparations are possible under its current legal framework.”

The protesters, most of whom appeared to be middle-age or elderly farmers, spent the morning squatting outside the custom-built United Nations courthouse on the outskirts of Phnom Penh with homemade signs that read in English and Khmer, “We Need Individual Reparation.”

“They took all my family members, my siblings, my nephews and nieces, until I was all alone,” said Horn Thul, 56.

“The court doesn’t even give us enough money for a packet of rice,” she continued, extending her hand. “If you have enough money, can you give me $2?”