March 24, 2023

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP) — An international tribunal convened in Cambodia to rule on the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime that killed an estimated 1.7 million people in the 1970s, after spending $337 million and 16 years to After being convicted, he ended his work on Thursday. three criminals.

At its final upcoming session, the UN-assisted tribunal begins to rule on an appeal by Jo Samphan, the last surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge government that ruled Cambodia from 1975-79. He was convicted in 2018 of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and sentenced to life in prison.

He appeared in the courtroom wearing a white trench coat, a mask and headphones to listen to the proceedings. Seven judges attended.

Khieu Samphan was the group’s titular head of state, but in his trial defense he denied having real decision-making power when the Khmer Rouge imposed a reign of terror to create a utopian agricultural society that resulted in Cambodians dying of executions, Hunger and insufficiency. medical insurance. It was ousted in 1979 due to the invasion of neighboring communist Vietnam, Vietnam.

“Whatever decision you make, I will die in jail,” Chosenphan said in his final appeal statement to the court last year. “I will always remember the suffering of the Cambodian people. Seeing me alone in front of you I will die. The judgment on me is symbolic, not my actual actions as an individual.”

On appeal, he claimed the court erred in legal process and interpretation and acted unfairly. But the court noted Thursday that his appeal did not directly challenge the facts of the case presented in court. It ruled on a point-by-point basis on the arguments put forward by Chosempan, rejecting almost all of them, and said its hundreds of pages of final verdict would become official when it was published.

The final ruling made little practical difference. Khieu Samphan, 91, was sentenced to life in prison in 2014 for crimes against humanity related to forced transfers and mass disappearances.

His co-defendant Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s No. 2 leader and chief thinker, was twice convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Nuon Chea died in 2019 at the age of 93.

The court’s only other sentence was against Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the commander of the Tuol Sleng prison, where some 16,000 people were tortured before being taken and killed. Duch was convicted of crimes against humanity, murder and torture in 2010 and died in 2020 at the age of 77 while serving a life sentence.

Pol Pot, the true leader of the Khmer Rouge, escaped justice. He died in the jungle in 1998 at the age of 72, while the remnants of his movement were fighting the final battle against a guerrilla war waged after losing power.

The trials of the only other two accused have not yet been completed. Former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sally died in 2013, and his wife, former social affairs minister Intiris, was deemed unfit to stand trial for dementia in 2011 and died in 2015.

Four other suspects, mid-level leaders of the Khmer Rouge, escaped prosecution due to disagreements among court jurists.

In an innovative hybrid arrangement, Cambodian and international jurists are paired at each stage, and a majority must agree to the case in order to proceed. International investigators recommended a trial of the four under the French judicial process used by the court, but local partners disagreed after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced he would not prosecute, claiming it could cause unrest.

Hun Sen himself was a mid-level Khmer Rouge commander who defected while the group was still in power, and several senior members of his ruling Cambodian People’s Party have similar backgrounds. He helped consolidate his political control by forming alliances with other former Khmer Rouge commanders.

With active work completed, the tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia, is now entering a three-year “remaining” period to focus on collating its archives and disseminating information about its work for educational purposes.

Experts involved in court work or overseeing its proceedings are now thinking about its legacy.

Heather Ryan, who has worked on the Open Society Justice Initiative court for 15 years, says the court has succeeded in providing a level of accountability.

“The time, money and effort spent to achieve this rather limited goal may be disproportionate to the goal,” she said in a video interview from her home in Boulder, Colorado.

But she praised “trials in countries where the atrocities are taking place, where people are able to give a certain level of attention and gather information about what’s going on in the courtroom to a much greater extent than if the courtroom were in The Hague or whatever. The Hague, the Netherlands, is home to the World Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

Michael Karnavas, a U.S. attorney who has served on Insari’s defense team, said his personal expectations were limited to the quality of justice his client would receive.

“In other words, regardless of the outcome, are their rights to a fair trial substantively and procedurally guaranteed by the Cambodian constitution and the established laws entrusted to them at the highest international levels?” he said in an email interview. “The answer is a bit complicated.”

“The trial stage was not as fair as I thought it would be. The judges improvised too much, and despite the lengthy proceedings, the defence was not always treated fairly,” said Kanawas, who also served at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda appears in court.

“In both substantive and procedural law, there are many examples of what the ECCC has not only done right, but has furthered the development of international criminal law.”

There is consensus that the court’s legacy extends beyond the law books.

“The court succeeded in combating the Khmer Rouge’s longstanding impunity and showed that although it may take a long time, the law can catch up with those who commit crimes against humanity,” researched and wrote about the Khmer Rouge, and in 2006 From 2012 to 2012, he served as the Investigation Director of the ECCC Prosecutor’s Office.

“The court has also created an extraordinary record of these crimes, including documents that will be studied by scholars for decades to come, which will educate Cambodia’s youth about the history of their country, which will deeply frustrate any Attempts to deny crimes in the country. Khmer Rouge.”

Youk Chhang, director of the Cambodia Documentation Center, which has a wealth of evidence of atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, addresses the fundamental question of whether the court’s convictions of just three men served justice.

“Justice is sometimes about satisfaction, recognition, not the number of people you’re suing,” he told The Associated Press. “That’s a broad definition of the word justice itself, but when people are satisfied with the process or when people are satisfied with the process or from the process I think we can conceptualize it as justice.”


Peck reported from Bangkok. Associated Press reporter Jerry Harmer contributed to this report.

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