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.

The Trial Chamber also found that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan implemented the common purpose through a policy to target former Khmer Republic officials. As a result of this policy at least 250 officials were executed immediately after 17 April 1975.

In sentencing, the Trial Chamber considered the

gravity of the crimes, including that they were committed across the whole of Cambodia during a more than two-and-a-half-year period against a vast number of victims, which is among the highest of any decided case concerning international crimes.

The gravity of the crimes was further illustrated by the conditions of forced transfer, which were severe, unrelenting and inhumane. Further, the crimes had serious and lasting impact upon the victims, their relatives and Cambodia in general.

Defence lawyers for Kieu Samphan and Nuon Chea said they were going to appeal the judgement.

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea have also been accused of the crime of genocide in front of the ECCC and begun this second trial on 30 July 2014. This second trial includes among others a charge of genocide related to killings of Vietnamese and Cham Muslim minorities. The genocide case is tried separately to accelerate proceedings, as the defendants are elderly.