The slow course of justice for the leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime is to inch forward again today, as a UN-backed tribunal holds an initial hearing against a pair of defendants in their 80s facing genocide and other charges.
The Khmer Rouge’s former head of state, Khieu Samphan, and Nuon Chea, right-hand man to late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, are among the few surviving top leaders of the brutal communist group that was responsible for about 1.7 million deaths from starvation, exhaustion, disease and execution when it was in power from 1975 to 1979.
It will be the second case for the defendants, who have already been tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity related to forced evacuations and a mass execution, one of many massacres at sites around the country that came to be known as the “killing fields.”
The verdict in that two-year trial is due next week. If found guilty, the two men could be put in prison for the rest of their lives.
The new trial brings additional charges of genocide, alleging that Pol Pot and other senior leaders intended to wipe out the members of the country’s Vietnamese and Muslim Cham ethnic minorities. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese were forced into Vietnam, and virtually all of those remaining were executed. Estimates of the number of Chams killed range from 90,000 to 500,000.
International deputy coprosecutor William Smith said that the team felt there was sufficient evidence to bring such cases.
“It’s really significant because genocide is one of the most serious charges in international law,” Smith said.
In Wednesday’s initial hearing, lawyers and judges will discuss which witnesses and experts will be called, the issue of requests for reparations, and procedural legal objections. The judges expect the actual trial to begin in the last quarter of this year, tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said.
Lyma Nguyen, an international civil party lawyer representing ethnic Vietnamese victims, said the trial represents not only a rare chance to shed light on the suffering caused by the alleged genocidal policies, but also on the long-standing harm they have inflicted.
Those forced to flee retained no documentation proving their Cambodian origins, so when they returned, they were plunged into statelessness.
Today, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese remain undocumented, living on the fringes of society without access to proper schooling, healthcare, jobs or social services.
The trial also marks the first time rape and forced marriage will be addressed by the court, as offenses considered crimes against humanity.
Court officials and historians had argued that Khmer Rouge policy banning sexual relations among unmarried couples was proof rape could not have been widespread or systematic.
However, Duong Savorn, head of the gender-based violence team at the Cambodian Defenders Project, a local legal aid group, said his research had suggested that there were “many, many cases” of rape.
“I think it’s good to put on the record,” he said.
After years of legal and political wrangling, the Khmer Rouge tribunal was established in 2006 to bring the regime to justice some 30 years after its reign of terror.
However, since then, the court has been plagued by corruption, mismanagement and financial woes.
The hybrid structure of the court, in which UN-appointed international judges share the bench with Cambodian counterparts, has led to allegations of political interference and repeated deadlocks.
To date, only a single conviction has been obtained by tribunal. It sentenced Kaing Guek Eav, also known as “Duch,” the director of the infamous S-21 torture center, to life imprisonment in a case where reams of documentation and a confession made for as smooth a trial as possible.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big