PHNOM PENH —
Cambodia's International Tribunal has announced that the second phase of the trial for two former Khmer Rouge leaders will begin on October 17.
The date will mark the beginning of the final phase in the trial of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, which was broken into two parts for expediency. Trial officials said hearings will continue three days per week.
The two defendants are now facing charges for a wide range of crimes, including Khmer Rouge actions at detention centers and work camps -- policies including forced marriage, and the alleged genocide of Cham Muslims and ethnic Vietnamese.
Nuon Chea, the former regime’s chief ideologue, and Khieu Samphan, its nominal head of state, already have received life sentences from the court for their roles in the mass emptying of Phnom Penh following the Khmer Rouge takeover. They have appealed that decision.
Observers say the final phase of the trial has been a concern for victims, due to the slow pace of the court’s work and the advanced age of the defendants.
Long Panhavuth, a program officer at Open Society Justice Initiative Cambodia, said that with a schedule firmly in place, however, some of those concerns finally will be put to rest.
“We had worried about the lateness of the hearings for Case 002/02, and we welcome the schedule of the Trial Chamber. We can say that victims will get the justice they are waiting for,” said Long Panhavuth.
As many as two million Cambodians died from starvation, overwork and executions during the four-year rule of the Khmer Rouge, which attempted to create an agrarian communist utopia.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.