News / Asia

Khmer Rouge Court to Try Former Leaders Crime by Crime

This combo shows file photos of the four top surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime from left to right: Nuon Chea, the group's ideologist; former head of state and public face of the regime, Khieu Samphan, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary; and his w
This combo shows file photos of the four top surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime from left to right: Nuon Chea, the group's ideologist; former head of state and public face of the regime, Khieu Samphan, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary; and his w
Robert Carmichael

The Khmer Rouge tribunal said Thursday it would try the four elderly leaders of the ultra-Maoist movement that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 on a charge-by-charge basis. The decision means the tribunal will conduct a series of smaller trials of all four defendants, rather than one long and complicated trial.

The decision by the United Nations-backed court means the tribunal will divide the complex multiple charges against the four accused into segments.  The four are charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and an array of crimes under Cambodian law.  What will now take place is a series of smaller trials in which specific charges against the four, and evidence related to those charges, will be heard. The court will start with the charge of crimes against humanity.

Court spokesman Lars Olsen says the decision means the court will hand down verdicts against the elderly defendants as the trial proceeds rather than waiting until the end of a multi-year process to deliver a single verdict.  Olsen says this will safeguard the interests of the victims in trying to obtain justice in a timely manner as well as the rights of the accused to an expeditious trial.  He says other international tribunals of similar complexity have taken up to 10 years to reach a verdict.

Clair Duffy, who monitors the tribunal for the Open Society Justice Initiative, explains the significance of Thursday’s decision.

“It basically means that what we’re going to see is a much more focused and condensed trial take place next year - and that’ll be a portion of the indictment against these four accused people. A number of allegations but discrete ones," said Duffy. "They’ll kick off with that, and I expect that we’ll see a judgment possibly in 12-18 months on the first segment of the trial.”

The U.N.-backed court has said many times that Case Two, as the trial of the leaders is known, is the most complex since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg.  The four on trial are: Nuon Chea, who was deputy to the late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot; Khieu Samphan, the regime’s head of state; Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister; and his wife, Ieng Thirith, who was the social affairs minister.

All four deny the charges against them.

The youngest defendant is 79, and the longer their trial drags on, the greater the chance that health problems could disrupt proceedings.

Duffy says that will have been at the forefront of the court’s mind. Other tribunals have seen elderly defendants die during trial without a verdict being delivered.  The most prominent of those was the former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

“What we’ve seen is aged people or ailing people being prosecuted who have died during proceedings that have lasted years and years after there has been a lot of investment on many levels in those cases. So I would say one of the main reasons would be to try and circumvent that if possible,” said Duffy.

Not everyone will be satisfied with the decision. The first array of charges will deal with crimes against humanity, but will not cover those crimes as they relate to persecution on religious grounds.

The first trial segment also will not examine the charge of war crimes or the charge of genocide, which in the Cambodian context refers to the Khmer Rouge’s killings of Cham Muslim people and ethnic Vietnamese.  All of those charges will be dealt with later once the first trial segment is completed.

It isn’t perfect, but the court has little choice. Some of the defendants are ailing, all are old, and the clock is ticking for this tribunal to deliver justice in whatever limited time it has left.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh 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 Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan 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 Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
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.

VOA Blogs