Published on : 22/09/2022 – 10:30
The special court responsible for judging the Khmer Rouge for their atrocities, for its final decision, confirmed on appeal Thursday the life sentence for Khieu Samphan, the last dignitary alive, for genocide. The Court is due to dissolve in 2025, after completing its archival work.
A final condemnation before the dissolution. The special court responsible for judging the Khmer Rouge confirmed on appeal in its final decision, Thursday, September 22, the life imprisonment sentence for Khieu Samphan.
The 91-year-old former head of state of Democratic Kampuchea was found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity – murder, enslavement, forced marriages, rape – and serious violations of the Geneva conventions.
Khieu Samphan “had direct knowledge of the crimes and he shared the intention to commit them with the other participants in the joint criminal enterprise” which killed nearly two million people between 1975 and 1979, recalled judge Kong Srim.
The charges against him are associated with “some of the most heinous acts” of the ultra-Maoist dictatorship, the President of the Supreme Court Chamber insisted.
Khieu Samphan attended the judgment, in court, on his wheelchair, listening to the two and a half hour pronouncement through an audio headset. He has already been sentenced to life in 2014 – verdict confirmed on appeal in 2016 – for crimes against humanity committed during the forced evacuation of the inhabitants of Phnom Penh, in the first part of his river trial, started in 2011 .
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Nearly 500 people, including families of victims, Buddhist monks and diplomats, attended the hearing, a “historic day” according to the spokesman of the Court, Neth Pheaktra.
Third Khmer Rouge dignitary sentenced
“I’m happy to be here to hear the verdict. I demand justice for all the victims because they suffered so much. The Pol Pot regime was so brutal,” You Soeun, 67, told AFP. , who lost his brother during the Khmer Rouge period.
Khieu Samphan, one of the rare public faces of the regime, has always denied his involvement in the acts of which he is accused, in particular in the genocide against the Vietnamese.
“The Supreme Court Chamber finds no merit in Khieu Samphan’s arguments about the genocide, and rejects them,” Kong Srim said.
This count does not concern the massacres, even of mass, of the Khmers by the Khmers which are not considered by the United Nations as a genocide.
Khieu Samphan is the third Khmer Rouge dignitary to be sentenced by this special court, made up of Cambodian and international judges.
Kaing Guek Eav, alias Douch, was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The former torturer, head of the country’s most fearsome detention center at the time, S21, died in 2020, aged 77.
Dissolution of a Court which has caused several controversies
The judges imposed the same sentence on Nuon Chea, the movement’s ideologue, for genocide, against Vietnamese and Cham Muslims, and crimes against humanity. He died in August 2019 at the age of 93.
“Brother number one”, Pol Pot, died in 1998, without being judged.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) are now preparing to close their doors without having dispelled the controversies that have undermined them from the start.
The dropping of charges in recent years against three people accused of genocide or crimes against humanity has reminded us of their fragility in a country ruled by a repentant former Khmer Rouge commander, Hun Sen, who has spoken out against any new trial in name of national stability.
Its cost, more than 330 million dollars, compared to the number of convictions, also fueled suspicions. But the judges managed to “revitalize the process of national reconciliation”, nuance with AFP Craig Etcheson, an expert on the country who testified at one of the trials. Public participation, numerous testimonies… “In sixteen years, there has been enormous progress,” he explains.
Its operation must serve as a “model for prosecuting serious crimes and massacres in the future at the international level”, said Bin Chhin, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, in a press conference given after the speech.
Its last case closed, the Court is due to dissolve in 2025, having completed its archival work, among other things.