Cambodia : Sentence of 2 former Khmer Rouge leaders to life imprisonment is historic

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FIDH and ADHOC, welcome the ECCC landmark decision condemning Khieu Samphan, former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea, and Nuon Chea, former President of the Assembly of People’s Representatives of Democratic Kampuchea and ideologist of the Khmer Rouge regime, to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity related to forced movements of population and the execution of former Khmer Republic soldiers and officials.

It is the first time that high-ranking officials of the Khmer Rouge regime are convicted by an independent Court. The ECCC trial judges also decided to order collective measures of reparation for Civil Parties.

Although this decision is issued almost 40 years after the Khmer Rouge crimes, it is a historic victory for Civil Parties, said Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and Civil Parties lawyer. We hope this decision will contribute to the Cambodian society’s work towards sustainable peace and independent justice, added Mr. Baudouin.

Now that the high-ranking officials of the Khmer Rouge regime have been found guilty, we will finally be able to mourn our relatives, declared Civil Parties from France represented by FIDH, who attended the verdict hearing today. It was important for us to see those who planned and ordered these crimes be held to account, they added.

The decision issued by the Trial Chamber of the ECCC represents an important step against the impunity of former Khmer Rouge high-ranking officials. It is also a positive message for younger generations that these crimes cannot go unpunished", said Latt Ky, ADHOC representative.

Our organisations welcome the decision to order collective reparations for victims, including permanent and mobile exhibitions or new chapters on Khmer Rouge crimes in teacher’s guidebooks. However, our organisations regret that the ECCC will not fund these reparation orders. Indeed, the Internal Rules excluded the creation of a special fund to finance reparation measures, even if the accused were considered indigent, leaving it up mainly to Civil Parties and victims’ associations to implement them with their own means. We also regret that the ECCC did not recognise projects related to the construction of memorials in Cambodia and France as reparation measures in this Case, arguing they lacked guarantees of implementation.

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea were found guilty of the crimes against humanity of murder, political persecution, forced transfer, attacks against human dignity, enforced disappearances and extermination during forced movements of population in Cambodia from 17 April 1975 to December 1977. They were also found guilty of the crimes against humanity of murder, political persecution and extermination of former soldiers and officials of the Khmer Republic at Tuol Po Chrey in Pursat Province. The ECCC also recognised that both Samphan and Chea have committed the majority of the above crimes in the framework of a common plan, to which they made a significant contribution.

The decision can be appealed within 30 days. The evidence collected during proceedings in this case (Case 002/01) will be usable for trial proceedings in Case 002/02 which targets the same accused. The substantial trial in Case 002/02 is expected to start before the end of this year.

Since 2008, FIDH, through lawyers from its Litigation Action Group (LAG), has been representing 10 victims, living in France and Civil Parties in Case 002/01 before the ECCC. FIDH enabled them to attend the verdict hearing in Phnom Penh. ADHOC enabled 46 Civil Parties from 23 provinces in Cambodia to attend the hearing.

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