ECCC: Ieng Thirith Dies at 83

by Tibor Bajnovič

Ieng ThirithThe Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (‘ECCC’) confirmed that Ieng Thirith, the alleged Minister of Health and Social Affairs during Democratic Kampuchea, died on 22 August 2015 in Pailin province, Cambodia.

Ieng Thirith was allegedly the highest-ranking female officer during the Khmer Rouge regime, who also was Pol Pot’s sister-in-law, and the wife of Ieng Sary, the regime’s alleged Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. She and her husband both studied in Paris during the 1950’s and later formed the core of the Khmer Rouge movement with Pol Pot.

On 15 September 2010, the ECCC Co-Investigating Judges indicted Ieng Thirith in Case 002 on crimes against humanity, genocide and Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions 1949 for her role in Khmer Rouge’s regime during 1975-1979.

Following multiple assessments by medical experts, the Trial Chamber of the ECCC unanimously found Ieng Thirith unfit to stand a trial due to her progressive dementia (in particular Alzheimer’s disease), and indefinitely stayed the proceedings against her. Consequently, Ieng Thirith was released from provisional detention on 16 September 2012, but remained under judicial supervision until her death.

After Ieng Sary’s death in 2013, the two remaining co-accused in Case 002 are Nuon Chea, the former Chairman of the Democratic Kampuchea National Assembly and Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan, the former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea.

The Case 002 has been severed into two separate trials, each addressing a different section of the indictment. The trial judgement in Case 002/01 was pronounced on 7 August 2014. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were both found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. Following the appeals filed by both Accused, the appeal hearings in Case 002/01 commenced on 2 July 2015 and are ongoing. The trial hearings in Case 002/02 commenced on 17 October 2014 and are still ongoing.

New Judges Appointed at the ECCC

ECCCProfessor Michael Bohlander (Germany) has been appointed as new Reserve International Co-Investigating Judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), replacing Judge Olivier Beauvallet (France) who was appointed as International Judge in the Pre-Trial Chamber earlier this year.

Professor Bohlander is currently Chair in Comparative and International Criminal Law at Durham Law School, where he has been a professor since 2004.

From 1991 to 2004 Professor Bohlander served as trial and appellate judge in criminal and civil matters in the courts of the East German Free State of Thuringia, in the transitional stage after German unification in 1990. From 1999 until 2001 he served as a Senior Legal Officer of a Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Professor Bohlander holds a doctorate of law from Saarland University, where he also obtained his law degree.

Judge BAIK Kang Jin (Republic of Korea) was also appointed as new International Judge in the Pre-Trial Chamber. He replaces judge Rowan Downing (Australia) who resigned earlier this year.

ECCC: Second Ex-Khmer Rouge Official Charged in Case 004

On 27 March 2015, the International Co-Investigating Judge of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) charged former Khmer Rouge official Ao An, also known as Ta An, with crimes against humanity and premeditated homicide.

Ao An, aka Ta An, photographed in 2011. Photo Courtesy DC-CAM

Ao An, aka Ta An, photographed in 2011. Photo Courtesy DC-CAM

Ta An appeared in person at the court to hear the charges related to purges and executions at the crime sites of Kok Pring execution site, Tuol Beng security centre and Wat Au Trakuon security centre.

Ta An, the former deputy secretary of the Central Zone during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, is the second suspect charged in Case 004. Earlier this month, the UN-backed Khmer Rouge Tribunal charged former district commander Im Chaem in the same case. Continue reading

Two New Suspects Charged by Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal


The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

On 3 March, the International Co-Investigating Judge Mark Harmon of the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) charged two former Khmer Rouge members with several crimes committed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

The suspects in both cases, known as Cases 003 and 004, have been charged in absentia. Both suspects are thought to be among those most responsible for Khmer Rouge atrocities committed between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.

Meas Muth, suspect in Case 003, is said to have had authority over sending people to S-21, the notorious security prison, where they were tortured and ultimately killed. A high ranking navy commander in the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea, Muth is accused of torture and killing of Vietnamese, Thai and other foreigners captured at sea and on the islands over which Democratic Kampuchea claimed sovereignty. He is also charged with having committed Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Im Chaem, a former district commander was charged with homicide, the crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts at the Phnom Tryoung security centre in Banteay Meanchey province. She was further charged with the crimes against humanity of murder, enslavement, imprisonment and other inhumane acts for her role at the Spean Sreng work site. Continue reading

ECCC: Nuon Chea’s Defence Files Appeal Brief

Nuon CheaLast week, on 29 December 2014, the defence team of the Khmer Rouge regime’s former chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, filed a full appeal against the 88-year-old’s life sentence and convictions for crimes against humanity.

Raising 223 grounds of appeal, Nuon Chea requested an acquittal on all charges for which he and Khieu Samphan were convicted in Case 002/01 by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in August 2014.

The 270-page long appeal brief sets out numerous flaws in the criminal proceedings and in the trial judgment.

The brief first highlights two issues that have plagued the investigation: pervasive political interference and a biased flawed investigative approach of the Co-Investigating Judges.

Nuon Chea’s lawyers alleged that “the lack of independence and impartiality permeating the investigation were equally apparent before the Trial Chamber.” According to the defence, the Trial Chamber is “deeply biased” against the Accused and incapable of impartially assessing the evidence (appeal grounds 3 & 4).

The defence based this claim on a careful and detailed analysis of the judgment, which reveals, according to the Appeals brief, that a substantial portion of the findings are, or would be reasonably perceived to be attributable to a pre-disposition against the accused, and not genuinely related to the application of law, or to the assessment of the relevant facts. Continue reading

The Impact of the ECCC

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

Top Khmer Rouge Leaders Found Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity

Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea appe

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

Genocide Trial Begins for Former Khmer Rouge Leaders

Nuon Chea and Kieu Samphan

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