The United Nations-backed court set up to bring to trial those most responsible for crimes committed during Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime today upheld life sentences for two top former Khmer Rouge leaders on Wednesday for crimes against humanity.
A news release announced that the Supreme Court of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) upheld its judgement on appeals against the trial judgement regarding Nuon Chea, former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan, former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea. The two, who are the most senior surviving members of the regime, were were sentenced in August 2014.
In a lengthy decision, the Court also reversed the convictions entered by the Trial Chamber for the crime against humanity of extermination in relation to the evacuation of Phnom Penh and the second phase of population transfers. It found that the evidence before the Trial Chamber in relation to the population movements did not establish beyond reasonable doubt the requisite killings on a large scale “committed with direct intent.”
In April 1975, during the first phase of the movement of the population, at least two million people were forcibly transferred from Phnom Penh by Khmer Rouge soldiers often at gunpoint, and in terrifying and violent circumstances. The population was forced to march to rural areas during the hottest time of the year and without adequate food, water or medical care.
According to the Tribunal, there were numerous instances of Khmer Rouge soldiers shooting and killing civilians during the course of the evacuation, while many others died of exhaustion, malnutrition or disease. There was another phase of the movement of the population between September 1975 and December 1977, where scores more were displaced.
The ECCC, which is currently handing four cases, was created by Cambodia and the United Nations, but is independent of them, and is a Cambodian court with international participation that will apply international standards.