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Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Khmer Rouge Tribunal Background

Brief History: Approximately 1.7 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between April 1975 and January 1979. The Cambodian government eventually realized that justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge would be a step toward the redevelopment and healing of the nation and asked the United Nations for assistance with prosecuting the Khmer Rouge leaders. After lengthy negotiations, the parties created the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (the ECCC). The ECCC's first investigation commenced in 2007.

Role of the ECCC: The ECCC is truly a one-of-a-kind international court. It is a domestic Cambodian court with Cambodian legal procedure but is comprised of both Cambodian and international lawyers and judges who enforce domestic and international laws. The United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT) supports the international legal community at the ECCC. UNAKRT assists the ECCC with the prosecution of the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge and those who were most responsible for serious violations of international law and Cambodian domestic law.

Who will be held responsible? The Cambodian government and the UN finally agreed that the ECCC would bring to trial senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible for the crimes and serious violations of Cambodian penal law, international humanitarian law and custom, and international conventions recognized by Cambodia, that were committed during the period from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.

The ECCC has explained why it is limiting its prosecution to senior leaders and those most responsible: Over the years, tens of thousands of ordinary Khmer Rouge soldiers have defected to the government. They have nothing to fear from this court. The policy of national reconciliation is still in place... [O]nly the most culpable people will be tried under the law governing the Extraordinary Chambers. By not prosecuting people who had worked as low- and mid-level leaders of the Khmer Rouge, the ECCC emphasized to Cambodians that peace and reconciliation are important priorities.

Who are the accused?
  • Case 001Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch, the former Chairman of the Khmer Rouge S-21 Security Center in Phnom Penh, was the first defendant in Case 001. Duch was found guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention and sentenced to 35 years. On appeal, his sentence was increased to life imprisonment.
  • Case 002Nuon Chea, former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea; Ieng Sary, former Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs; and Khieu Samphan, former Head of State. The defendants are indicted on charges of crimes against humanity, grave breaches of theGeneva Conventions of 1949, and genocide. In 2011, the ECCC stayed the charges against a fourth defendant, Ieng Thirith, former Minister of Social Affairs, after she was diagnosed with age-related dementia. Case 002 is divided into a series of smaller trials. Forced movement of population and crimes against humanity are the first trial subjects.
  • Case 003: No defendants have been named in the "military case." It is, however, widely believed that the defendants will include Navy Commander Meas Muth and Air Force Commander Sou Met.
  • Case 004: No defendants have been named but it is suspected that the defendants will include three Khmer Rouge regional officials: Aom An, Yim Tith, and Im Chem. In March 2012, Im Chem was notified that she should prepare for being indicted.
What is the role of the victims?

Victims of the Khmer Rouge regime serve important functions as civil parties and witnesses in the trials.