Khieu Samphan, one of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Cambodian tribunal for his involvement in the country’s genocide in the 1970s. The terrorism is estimated to have claimed nearly two million lives. The judgment delivered on Thursday confirms the lower court’s decision.
The tribunal operating under the aegis of the United Nations of Cambodia upheld the sentence of a lower court on Thursday that sentenced to life imprisonment Khieu Samphana, one of the leaders of the criminal communist Khmer Rouge regime, for genocide in the 1970s, Kyodo news agency reported on Thursday.
This is the final judgment of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia. With no more being tried, this marks the end of a lawsuit that began in 2006 to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 1975-1979 terror, which estimated to have claimed nearly 2 million lives.
Khieu Samphan sentenced to life imprisonment
Khieu Samphan, 91, is one of five Khmer Rouge who have been brought before an international tribunal. Only three of them were convicted, including Khieu Samphana. Four out of five tried are already dead, three of whom have died before the end of the trial.
The first meeting in the Khieu Samphana trial was held in 2011. In 2014, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, mainly for the forced displacement of the inhabitants of Phnom Penh, which led to their deaths of starvation. The judgment became final in November 2016.
In a separate trial, Khieu Samphan was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 2018 for genocide against the Vietnamese minority in Cambodia and other crimes. He appealed the sentence without pleading guilty. On appeal, the defense of Samphana argued that the evidence had been used selectively.
Neth Pheaktra, the tribunal’s spokesman, said ahead of the closing ruling that it would be a “new milestone” for the court to “bring truth and justice to Khmer Rouge victims” and to the survivors.
The protracted trials of the Khmer Rouge leaders
However, as the tribunal comes to an end after 16 years, it seems ordinary Cambodians have mixed feelings about the protracted trial, and many would like to forget this painful period in the nation’s history, writes Kyodo.
Pol Pot, the leader of the Maoist-inspired movement who served as Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea (as Cambodia was called under the Khmer Rouge rule), died in 1998 before the trial began.
Nuon Chea, the main ideologist of the Cambodian regime, was tried along with Khieu Samphan and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014. He died five years later.
The third Khmer Rouge figure to be convicted by the court was Kaing Guek Eav, known as the “Ghost”, who was the head of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison in the capital. He died in 2020 while serving a life sentence, to which he was sentenced in 2012 for the deaths of more than 12,000 people at a torture facility under his control.
Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, who served as Minister for Social Affairs under the Pol Pot regime, both died in the proceedings.
Main photo source: NHET SOK HENG / PAP / EPA