News / Asia

Cambodian Tribunal Ends First Trial in Key Khmer Rouge Case

Nuon Chea, who was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, waits before his final statements at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013.
Nuon Chea, who was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, waits before his final statements at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013.
Robert Carmichael
Thursday marked the conclusion of the first portion of the trial involving two surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement. While prosecutors have asked the judges to hand down a life sentence for both men, the two defense teams say their clients should be acquitted and released. An estimated two million Cambodians died from harsh conditions imposed by the Khmer Rouge government in the 1970's.  
 
Both elderly defendants addressed the court Thursday as the first part of their lengthy trial wrapped up in Phnom Penh. Their defense teams have portrayed the case against them as a show trial with a predetermined outcome.
 
Nuon Chea, known as Brother Number Two for his position as deputy to the late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, argued he had not received a fair trial and he had nothing to do with the crimes that formed the basis of this case.
 
The 87-year-old’s words are spoken by the court’s interpreter:
 
 “Through this trial it is clearly indicated that I was not engaged in any commission of the crimes as alleged by the co-prosecutors. In short, I am innocent in relation to those allegations,” said Chea.
 
In remarks lasting more than an hour, a wheelchair-bound Nuon Chea said he loved his people and would not have allowed them to suffer. The mass killings, starvation and overwork of the population was, he insisted, largely the work of Vietnamese and American agents who had sought to undermine the revolution.
 
Nuon Chea insisted he wielded no executive authority under the Democratic Kampuchea regime, and only learned the truth of those years after 1979.
 
“Nonetheless, I would like to express my deepest remorse and moral responsibility to all victims and Cambodian people who suffered during the Democratic Kampuchea regime,” said Chea.
 
At the start of the case, two years ago, the judges divided the complex indictment, which includes charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, into a series of mini-trials.
 
This first mini-trial has heard evidence about three alleged crimes: the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took power; further forced movements of people around the country over the next two years; and a mass execution in 1975 of hundreds of soldiers and officials from the defeated Lon Nol government.
 
Regarding to the specific charges in this first mini-trial, Nuon Chea’s defense lawyer, Victor Koppe, told VOA that the decision to order the evacuation of Phnom Penh was done for military and practical reasons, and lacked criminal intent.
 
“The crimes that were allegedly committed during the evacuation of Phnom Penh, there was… no policy underlying to have that done. Obviously they wanted these people to move to cooperatives to work there and to produce as much rice as possible, so there was no intent of having these people killed somehow,” argued Koppe.
 
Nuon Chea’s defense also holds that later mass movements of people were done at the behest of regional officials, not the leaders. Koppe said the third charge - the 1975 massacre of soldiers and officials - was the consequence of local cadres taking revenge and was not a policy of the regime. Consequently, he has called for his client to be acquitted and released.
 
Lawyers for fellow defendant Khieu Samphan portrayed their client as a man who joined the revolution with the best of intentions and who was duped.
 
International prosecutor William Smith, who in court derided Khieu Samphan’s stance as “the only man in all of Cambodia who knew nothing, saw nothing, and heard nothing,” rejects the contention that the two defendants did not receive a fair trial.
 
Smith says numerous documents show the Khmer Rouge had a policy to kill former members of the defeated Lon Nol regime, and that policy came from the top. As for forcibly evicting the entire population of Phnom Penh, Smith argues that considering the circumstances of the move, the leadership must have known that many would die.
 
“Our view is that to force the population to leave without any preparations, at no notice, in the hottest month of the year; they knew that a certain amount of the population would die. Even if they didn’t want the whole population to die, they knew that would happen. I mean, it’s only common sense,” said Smith.
 
The prosecution estimates 20,000 people died in the two forced movements of population alone.
 
“So when we’re looking at numbers, let’s just say thousands at the very least, when we’re looking at thousands of people intentionally killed by leaders who were the architects of that plan and they had the control of the manner and method in which people were forced out into the countryside, and they had control of the policy which encouraged Khmer Rouge cadres to kill former Lon Nol officers and soldiers, that a life sentence is the minimum that they should give,” argued Smith.
 
The verdict in the first mini-trial is expected next year.
 
A second mini-trial - whose start date has yet to be announced - will examine allegations of genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity in a bid to ensure that the court assesses a range of charges more representative of the Cambodian people’s suffering under what the prosecution has characterized as a slave state.
 
An estimated 2 million people died from execution, starvation, disease and overwork during the Khmer Rouge’s rule from 1975 to 1979.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs