by Youk Chhang*
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
We have come a long way in forging a number of valuable instruments and policies to meet the challenge of responding to and punishing violence and mass atrocity. Recognising that the root causes of mass atrocities often stem from the inequalities between identity groups, we have put emphasis on the legal and governmental aspects of violence prevention. In terms of punishment as well, a variety of courts have been created to shed light on the atrocious acts of criminal regimes, and punish leaders who were most responsible.
The proceedings now under way at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, represent one example of how Cambodia has sought to address the horrible crimes perpetrated from 1975-79. The court’s work can be broken down into four cases. Case 001, which was completed in 2012, centred upon the prosecution of the notorious chief of a prison/security centre (S-21), who was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The trial court also recently issued its judgment for the accused senior leaders in the first set of charges in Case 002. Case 002, which has been broken up into separate trials reflecting different charges against the accused, holds importance in Cambodia’s struggle to understand what happened and why during the horrific Democratic Kampuchea (DK) period. Finally, cases 003 and 004 continue to be investigated. Continue reading
Nuon Chea (left) and Khieu Samphan
Today, the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) found the last two surviving leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime guilty of crimes against humanity. Kieu Samphan, the former head of state of Cambodia, and Nuon Chea, former president of the national assembly, have both been sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Trial Chamber found that both Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan participated in a joint criminal enterprise to achieve the common purpose of implementing a rapid socialist revolution through a ‘great leap forward’ by whatever means necessary. The Chamber found that this common purpose was implemented through, amongst other means, policies to forcibly displace people from cities and towns and between rural areas. As a result, during the first phase of the movement of the population at least two million people were forcibly transferred from Phnom Penh in April 1975 by Khmer Rouge soldiers under false pretexts and threats, often at gunpoint, with almost no prior warning and in terrifying and violent circumstances.
During the second phase of the movement of the population, between September 1975 and December 1977, at least 330,000 to 430,000 people were forcibly displaced from various locations throughout Cambodia. Most people were ordered to leave their locations and transferred under armed guard. Those who refused transfer or attempted escape were arrested, detained or transferred in a further round of movements. Continue reading
Kieu Samphan (left) and Nuon Chea
Today, the last two surviving leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime, Khieu Samphan, the former head of state of Cambodia, and Nuon Chea, former president of the national assembly under Pol Pot’s regime, begin their second trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
Both are already on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ECCC.
The second trial includes a charge of genocide related to killings of Vietnamese and Cham Muslim minorities. The charges are based on factual allegations concerning four security centres, three worksites and one group of adjacent cooperatives.
The cases are being tried separately to accelerate proceedings, because the defendants are elderly.
The second trial is a continuation of the first one. A verdict in the first case is expected on 7 August. Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for the two accused. Continue reading