PHNOM PENH— In a stunning first for the U.N.-backed tribunal, jailed Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea stood before the court and claimed responsibility for the atrocities, destruction and damage wrought on Cambodians by the brutal regime.
Nuon Chea, known as Brother No. 2, is 86 years old and had to be helped to stand by a security guard. He spoke before a number of trial participants who were victims of the regime and have been testifying this week.
“I take full responsibility for what happened during the Democratic Kampuchea,” he said, referring to the regime by its official name. “For the destruction and damages of my nation, as a leader, I have to take this responsibility. Morally, I take full responsibility from the bottom of my heart.”
It was the first time one of the top leaders of the regime has made a statement of responsibility. Previously, defendant Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, admitted responsibility for atrocity crimes that took place under his supervision at the Tuol Sleng torture center in Phnom Penh. But never has a senior leader claimed responsibility for the regime’s overall damage to Cambodians.
In the court room, the victims of the regime sobbed as they recalled their suffering and remembered family members killed under the Khmer Rouge.
Nuon Chea, the regime’s main ideologue, is on trial for atrocity crimes, including genocide, alongside Khieu Samphan, its nominal head of state, for their leadership roles in Democratic Kampuchea.
In a similar statement Wednesday, Khieu Samphan also apologized for the destructiveness of the regime.
“Once again, I apologize to you and all our victims,” he told those assembled in the court.