Cambodia is set to begin a genocide trial of four former Khmer Rouge leaders at a UN-backed war crimes court today. The defendants include “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan.
The trial is expected to take years, as all four accused deny the charges against them.
It has been long anticipated by the survivors of the brutal “killing field era” that saw the elimination of nearly a quarter of the population from 1975-79.
Report & Analysis: Cambodia court to open landmark KRouge trial [Straits Times, 27 Jun 2011]
Full testimony from the accused is not expected until late August at the earliest. The Cambodian government is anticipating that hundreds of Cambodians will travel to court to witness the proceedings this week, while portions of the trial will be shown on Cambodian television.
Report & Analysis: Cambodia court to open landmark KRouge trial [AFP, 26 Jun 2011]
One Khmer Rouge leader, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, has already been tried and convicted. He ran the main prison and place of torture of the Khmer Rouge. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but it was later reduced to 19 years.
The current trial is seen as a bit of an experiment, as it will couple a Cambodian prosecutor and Cambodian judges with foreigners assisting through the UN.
The Khmer Rouge was driven from power in January 1979 by a Vietnamese invasion. It continued to resist, carrying out a decade-long guerrilla war from the jungles. Mr. Nuon Chea and Mr. Khieu Samphan surrendered in 1998 and lived quietly in a remote town until 2007, when all four defendants were arrested and brought to a specially built jail on the grounds of the tribunal.
Report & Analysis: Ex-Khmer Rouge leaders set for trial in Cambodia [New York Times, 26 Jun 2011]
SIIA Associate Fellow Mahdev Mohan will be one of the lawyers representing the victims at the trial, as he has led a legal team that has helped investigate crimes specifically against the Khmer Krom, an ethnic minority that was targeted by Khmer Rouge. Mohan’s involvement marks the first time that a Singaporean lawyer has been involved in an international war crimes trial.
Report & Analysis: Singapore lawyer takes on Khmer Rouge leaders [Straits Times, 24 Jun 2011]