Cambodia: In landmark verdict, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal recognises forced marriage as a crime against humanity and convicts former Khmer Rouge leaders for genocide


On 16 November 2018, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) rendered their second verdict against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, and found them guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. The ECCC sentenced the two to life-imprisonment. FIDH welcomes this historic judgment that, for the first time, punishes perpetrators for the crimes of forced marriage and rape in the context of forced marriage, and qualifies them as crimes against humanity.

In a first trial (Case 002/01) which concluded in August 2014, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity committed during forced movements of population in Cambodia from September 1975 to December 1977, and for the executions of former Khmer Republic officials at Tuol Po Chrey in Pursat Province. [1]

In October 2014, the ECCC opened a second trial (Case 002/02) against the same two defendants. Until June 2017, the ECCC examined evidence and heard all parties’ arguments concerning the crimes committed at a number of cooperatives, worksites, security centres, and execution sites. The case also focused on the sexual and gender-based crimes committed within the Khmer Rouge’s policy regulating marriage as well as on crimes committed against Cham, Vietnamese, Buddhists and former Khmer Republic officials.

“The conviction of former Khmer rouge leaders for forced marriages and sexual crimes stemming from them and their qualification as crimes against humanity set an important precedent in international law. Thanks to Civil Parties and civil society’s advocacy to include these crimes within the scope of the charges, the court’s verdict ensured that the perpetrators of forced marriages were properly punished and their victims received justice.”

Guissou Jahangiri, FIDH Vice President

Under the Khmer Rouge regime, in application of a nationwide policy to regulate family-building and marriage, individuals were married in a widespread climate of fear and without genuine consent, and, after marriage, were forced to have sexual intercourse for the purpose of “produc[ing] children [...] to increase the country’s population within 10 to 15 years.” [2]

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were convicted of the crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, deportation, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, persecution on political, religious and racial grounds, and the other inhuman acts of enforced disappearance, forced transfer, forced marriage and rape in the context of forced marriage. The two defendants were also convicted of the war crimes of: wilful killing; torture; inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health’ wilfully depriving a prisoner of war or civilian the rights of fair and regular trial; and unlawful confinement of a civilian. The ECCC judges also found Nuon Chea guilty of genocide in connection with the killing of members of the Vietnamese and Cham groups and Khieu Samphan guilty of genocide in connection with the killing of members of the Vietnamese group.

A total of 3,865 Civil Parties participated in Case 002/01 and Case 002/02, including victims from the Cambodian diaspora in France supported by FIDH lawyers and represented by two Civil Party lead co-lawyers. One of FIDH Civil Parties testified during the Case 002/02 trial, in the framework of the hearings on the impact of the crimes on victims.

The ECCC granted collective and moral reparation measures and endorsed 14 projects that aimed at remembrance of the victims and memorialisation of the suffering they endured. Reparation measures also included therapy and psychological assistance to the victims, documentation, and education. FIDH supported the creation of a memorial for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, requested by FIDH-supported Civil Parties from the Cambodian diaspora and other associations based in France. The memorial was inaugurated in Paris on 17 April 2018. [3]

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