News / Asia

Prosecutors Seek Life Term for Ex-Khmer Rouge Leaders

People line up to enter the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia as a television screen shows former Khmer Rouge president Khieu Samphan, near Phnom Penh, October 21, 2013.
People line up to enter the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia as a television screen shows former Khmer Rouge president Khieu Samphan, near Phnom Penh, October 21, 2013.
Robert Carmichael
Prosecutors at Cambodia’s war crimes court asked judges on Monday to hand down a life term against two ex-leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Their request comes in the closing days of the first of at least two expected trials of these defendants, whose regime is blamed for the deaths of 2 million people.
 
After a trial that has lasted nearly two years, the prosecution concluded Monday that the defendants, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, were central to a regime that had turned Cambodia into a “slave state unparalleled in the modern era."
 
Prosecutor Chea Leang said both defendants had lied to the court, shown no remorse or regret, and refused to take responsibility for the crimes with which the evidence had shown they were guilty. As a result, she added, the prosecution saw no grounds for a reduction in the penalty.
 
“The prosecution requests the Trial Chamber and Your Honors to punish the accused, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, for life imprisonment, which is the only punishment that they deserve and that is the international standard for these crimes as well," said the prosecutor though an interpretor.
 
There is no death penalty in Cambodia’s courts.
 
Nuon Chea, known as "Brother Number Two," was deputy to the late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, and is widely regarded as the movement’s chief ideologue.
 
Khieu Samphan was head of state of the government known as Democratic Kampuchea, which ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

The indictment against the two elderly defendants includes charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Both men have denied all charges. The case is so complex that the court has divided it into a number of mini-trials. This month sees the end of the hearings in the first of those.
 
The initial mini-trial has focused mainly on crimes against humanity in two forced movements of people: the first when the Khmer Rouge emptied all urban areas, including Phnom Penh in April 1975, and later, when hundreds of thousands of people were forced to move across the country. The trial also considered one instance of mass killings, when hundreds of soldiers and officials from the defeated Lon Nol regime were executed in 1975.
 
A second mini-trial, should it ever proceed, 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.
 
In this photo released Cambodia's war crimes court, Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea listens to testimony during his trial in Phnom Penh, Mar. 20, 2012.In this photo released Cambodia's war crimes court, Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea listens to testimony during his trial in Phnom Penh, Mar. 20, 2012.
x
In this photo released Cambodia's war crimes court, Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea listens to testimony during his trial in Phnom Penh, Mar. 20, 2012.
In this photo released Cambodia's war crimes court, Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea listens to testimony during his trial in Phnom Penh, Mar. 20, 2012.
On Monday, Prosecutor William Smith said the thousands of deaths that had resulted from the forced evacuation of every one of the two million residents of Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge took control were fully predictable, adding that there was no basis in international law for the movement to have acted in that way.
 
“It is clear that the forced transfer itself was a crime against humanity.

"Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan planned and ordered the removal of millions of people from their lawful residences in Phnom Penh without permissible grounds and did not allow them to return to their homes for the whole time that they were in power," said Smith.
 
The prosecution holds that the evidence showed both defendants were deeply implicated in the decisions by the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) to forcibly move people as well as in the policy to execute perceived enemies of the revolution.
 
Also Monday, Smith dismissed Nuon Chea’s claims that he had no real power and that he was not responsible for atrocities. The prosecution was equally withering about Khieu Samphan’s claims that he did not know crimes had taken place. Khieu Samphan, said Smith, was a man “with much to hide."
 
“To this day Khieu Samphan seeks to present himself as a man of integrity, honesty, an intellectual," he said. "A man who was different from the other leaders. He says those other leaders kept him in the dark, he says he did not ask questions because he respected the CPK rule of secrecy, and Pol Pot used him as a figurehead."

Smith continued, "Somehow this unlucky pawn found himself at the pinnacle of a slave state, a member of the most secretive and powerful bodies of the CPK, surrounded by mass murder and yet completely unaware of what was happening around him. The only man in all of Cambodia who knew nothing, saw nothing, and heard nothing.”
 
The case against the ex-leaders of the Khmer Rouge began its hearings in late 2011 with four defendants, but only two remain after one died and another was ruled unfit for trial due to dementia.
 
Defense teams are expected to address the court in the coming days before the judges retire to consider a verdict, which is expected by the middle of next year.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs