— Officials at the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal say they will announce a verdict in August in the atrocity crimes trial against former leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
While the court prepares to start the second phase, officials said Thursday they would pronounce a judgment for the first phase on Aug. 7. That phase focused mainly on alleged crimes surrounding the forced movement of people and the execution of soldiers following the Khmer Rouge takeover in April 1975.
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the verdict is expected to bring justice for all parties involved.
“The day of issuing the verdict is the day the justice will be given to all parties, the victims who have been waiting for justice for so long and the detained accused who want the verdict to be issued soon so that they know whether or not they will be convicted for the crimes.”
Sum Rithy, a Khmer Rouge survivor and civil party complainant, told VOA's Khmer service that the decision will be “crucial” for victims.
“It is important for victims because convicting both [the] detained [and] accused according to national and international laws means to bring justice to the victims," he said. "For more than 30 years, the victims have been waiting for justice from the crimes committed by Khmer Rouge regime.”
Kong Som On, a lawyer for Khieu Samphan, said his client should not be convicted.
“Based on statements by Khieu Samphan and his lawyers, Khieu Samphan is not guilty," he said. "The accusation of co-prosecutors is based on insufficient evidence on the responsibility of Khieu Samphan for any crimes. Therefore, Khieu Samphan should not be guilty.”
As many as 2 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.
The group's leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 and co-founder Ieng Sary died earlier this year.
Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch," was sentenced last year to life in prison for his role in killing more than 14,000 while running the Tuol Sleng torture and execution center in Phnom Penh.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.