UN-backed tribunal in Cambodia details charges against ex-Khmer Rouge leader

UN-backed tribunal in Cambodia details charges against ex-Khmer Rouge leader

The former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea faces charges of having planned and ordered the murder, torture and enslavement of civilians during the regime’s rule over Cambodia in the late 1970s, according to a statement issued by a United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal today.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), based in the capital Phnom Penh, detailed the charges that Nuon Chea, 81, faces in a statement explaining why it has decided to place him in provisional detention for a year.

You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde, co-investigating judges of the ECCC, said Nuon Chea – also known as “Brother Number Two” in the Khmer Rouge – was being remanded in custody because he posed a potential threat to witnesses and victims and was also a flight risk.

In addition, the judges said that the charges are so grave that if he were released, it was possible there could be “protests of indignation which could lead to violence and perhaps imperil the very safety of the charged person.”

Nuon Chea is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes over his actions in various senior positions with the Communist Party of Kampuchea between April 1975 and January 1979.

He is alleged to have “planned, instigated, ordered, directed or otherwise aided and abetted in the commission” of numerous crimes against humanity, namely murder, torture, imprisonment, persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer, enslavement and other inhumane acts.

He is also accused of war crimes on the basis of breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including wilful killing, torture, inhumane acts, wilful deprivation of rights to a fair trial and unlawful confinement.

The statement noted that Nuon Chea disputes the charges, saying that he would be ashamed to have committed such crimes. He contends that all real power during the Khmer Rouge rule was in the hands of its Military Committee, of which he was not a member, and he has also told the court that he also lost 40 family members during the period in question.

In a separate press statement released today, the ECCC announced that Nuon Chea had selected a Cambodian lawyer, Son Arun, to represent him. He said he does not have the means to pay for a lawyer so the work of Mr. Son will be funded by the ECCC until Nuon Chea’s claim is assessed.

Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the ECCC was set up as an independent court using a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel. It is designated to try those deemed most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979.