Cambodia war crimes trial wraps up

2013-10-17 12:18
Former Khmer Rouge leader, Brother Number Two, Nuon Chea in the courtroom at the ECCC in Phnom Penh. (Mark Peters, AFP)

Former Khmer Rouge leader, Brother Number Two, Nuon Chea in the courtroom at the ECCC in Phnom Penh. (Mark Peters, AFP)

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Phnom Penh - Prosecutors at the UN backed Khmer Rouge tribunal began presenting their final arguments on Thursday in a historic case against two senior regime leaders accused of genocide and war crimes.

The court had heard "dishonest, deceitful, self-serving accusations  designed to justify crimes and shield Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan from their criminal responsibility," charged co-prosecutor Chea Leang in his closing statement.

Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, aged 82, was in court, but co-accused Nuon Chea, aged 87, known as Brother Number Two, followed proceedings through a live-stream in his holding cell.

Nuon Chea has been in and out of hospital in recent years, and has frequently said he was too frail to sit through the lengthy proceedings.

The current trial is focused on the forced movement of people from Phnom Penh to the countryside, in the Khmer Rouge's attempt to create an agrarian society. It was one of the biggest mass evacuations in history.

Lawyers for the prosecution strove to prove that Khieu Samphan, who said he had no knowledge of the plan to evacuate the city, and Nuon Chea, who claimed the plan was in the best interests of the people, were lying.

Chea Leang told the court that the evacuation was the leadership's policy and was "about violence, enslavement and death on a mass scale".

Many evacuees died en route from Phnom Penh to the rural areas, with no exceptions being made for the sick, old or children.

"Evacuees were executed for showing 'capitalist tendencies'. They were subjected to a regime of persecution and terror," said Chea Leang, citing forced confessions, starvation, separation of families, and execution.

Prosecution arguments continue on Friday, and will be followed next week by arguments from the defence.

A verdict from the tribunal is expected in the first half of 2014.

The health of the octogenarian defendants has been a constant concern in the trial, in which four were originally indicted.

Former Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith was declared unfit for trial last year due to advanced dementia, while her husband, former foreign minister Ieng Sary, died of a heart attack in March.

The hybrid national and United Nations tribunal was set up in 2006 to try the worst crimes that occurred under Pol Pot's regime between 1975 and 1979.

Read more on:    cambodia  |  war crimes

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