‘Killing Fields’ leaders on trial

2010-09-16 13:20

Phnom Penh - Four top Khmer Rouge leaders will stand trial for crimes including genocide during the "Killing Fields" era, Cambodia's UN-backed court said on Thursday, just weeks after its landmark first conviction.

"Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, who served as deputy to Khmer Rouge founder Pol Pot, was formally indicted along with former foreign minister Ieng Sary, social affairs minister Ieng Thirith and head of state Khieu Samphan.

Judge You Bunleng hailed the decision as a success for the tribunal, listing a litany of charges against the top members of the blood-soaked regime, including crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Marxist regime emptied the cities and abolished money and schools in the late 1970s in a bid to create an agrarian utopia, wiping out nearly a quarter of the country's population before they were ousted from the capital by Vietnamese forces.

Second historic sentencing

The trial, expected to begin in early 2011, will be the court's second, following the historic sentencing of former prison chief Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, in July for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The 67-year-old was given a jail term of 30 years for his role in overseeing the executions of an estimated 15 000 men, women and children. However, he could be free in 19 years given time already served, to the dismay of survivors.

The four newly indicted leaders have been in detention since their arrests in 2007 in connection with the regime's bloody rule over Cambodia from 1975-79, when up to two million people died from starvation, overwork or execution.

The genocide charges relate specifically to the deaths of Vietnamese people and ethnic Cham Muslims under the regime.

Thousands killed

Estimates for the number of Cham who died under the Khmer Rouge range from 100 000 to 400 000, but it is not known how many Vietnamese were killed.

The upcoming trial is expected to be a lengthy and complex one with all four leaders disputing the charges against them.

However, in the 2009 documentary Enemies of the People, Nuon Chea - the movement's chief ideologue - admits the regime killed perceived traitors if they could not be "re-educated" or "corrected".

"These people were categorised as criminals.... They were killed and destroyed. If we had let them live, the party line would have been hijacked. They were enemies of the people," said Nuon Chea, now 84.

Ieng Sary, or "Brother Number Three", acted as the public face of the secretive regime. Since his arrest by the UN tribunal, the 84-year-old's health has deteriorated significantly.

His wife, Ieng Thirith, now 78, is sometimes described as the "First Lady" of the Khmer Rouge. Her sister was married to Pol Pot.

She blames Nuon Chea for the crimes committed by the hard line communist government, and in a furious outburst last year told members of the court they would be "cursed to the seventh circle of hell".

Good news for Cambodians

The final defendant Khieu Samphan, 79, served as head of state and was one of the reclusive regime's few diplomats who had contact with the outside world.

Tribunal spokesperson Reach Sambath said the indictments were "very good news for the people of Cambodia".

"It's what they've been waiting for, for more than 30 years," he said outside the court. "The indictments can be part of the healing process for the victims."

The tribunal may be the last chance to find justice for victims since many top regime figures are now either dead or ailing. The judges said they were doing everything possible to monitor the four on a daily basis.

The court is also investigating whether to open more cases against five other former Khmer Rouge cadres, but faces political and financial pressures.

Prime Minister Hun Sen - himself a mid-level Khmer Rouge cadre before turning against the movement - said last year he would "prefer for this court to fail" than see new cases opened, saying further trials could drive the country back to civil war.

Frenchman Marcel Lemonde, one of the tribunal's two co-investigating judges, announced on Thursday he was quitting and will focus on other projects. He will be replaced by German Siegfried Blunk.
 

Read more on:    cambodia  |  genocide
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
 

ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300

Keep it together Text. Email. Social. With all the different ways to...

From R1399.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you by...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.