UN genocide adviser welcomes historic conviction of former Khmer Rouge leaders

16 November 2018

Friday’s historic conviction by a United Nations-backed international tribunal of two former Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia on genocide charges has been welcomed by the UN Special Adviser on the issue.

In a statement, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, described the conviction by a UN-backed international tribunal in Cambodia as “a good day for justice”, adding that “it demonstrates that justice will prevail, and that impunity should never be accepted for genocide and other atrocity crimes.”

Nyon Chea, now 92, who was deputy leader during the brutal extremist regime of Pol Pot, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, were charged with exterminating Cham Muslim and ethnic Vietnamese communities, between April 1975 and January 1979.

It demonstrates that justice will prevail, and that impunity should never be accepted for genocide and other atrocity crimes - UN Special Adviser, Adama Dieng

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) convicted both men for grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution on political, religious and racial grounds and other inhumane acts against civilians in Cambodia during this period.

It is the first time that any of Pol Pot’s senior officials of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, as the ruling party was known, have been convicted of genocide, according to news reports.

In a separate statement issued by his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the judgment demonstrates that perpetrators of the most heinous crimes can be held accountable, even decades after those crimes were committed.

“The Secretary-General’s thoughts are with the victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions,” the statement said, adding that Mr. Guterres also appreciated the dedication and hard work of everyone involved in the important work of the ECCC, and called on Member States to continue to provide support to the tribunal.

Mr. Dieng also expressed his support and solidarity with the victims, saying that “all the people who have suffered as a result of the heinous crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during this period have waited a long time for justice. Hopefully this decision will provide them with some measure of redress and solace.”

He said it was also an historic verdict, when it comes to preventing similar crimes in the future: “While criminal accountability is foremost a tool to provide justice and redress to victims, it also has an important preventative function as a deterrent as well as to help societies in reconciliation efforts,” he said.  

“At a time when we are witnessing a dangerous disregard for fundamental rights and international legal norms and standards in many parts of the world, this decision sends a strong message, in the region and globally, to those who commit, incite or condone atrocity crimes that sooner or later they will be held accountable.”

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