Cambodia’s trial of the century has begun... again

22 October 2014 by Julia Wallace

After an initial guilty verdict in August for two former Khmer Rouge leaders on charges of crimes against humanity – and strong admonitions from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)’s appellate judges for its trial chamber to hurry up – substantive hearings are underway in what is known as Case 002/02. 

Whereas Case 002/01, which concluded this past summer [IJT-165], focused on Nuon Chea’s and Khieu Samphan’s roles in mass evacuations of Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge years, the second case deals with a much broader range of crimes against humanity, as well as genocide and war crimes. The two separate trials are the – much-criticized – result of a severance in the indictment, intended to get verdicts out faster, before the suspects die or become incapacitated.

At the 17 October opening of Case 002/02, statements came from prosecutors and defendants. Chief Cambodian prosecutor Chea Leang eloquently argued for the necessity of the trial, one allowing the voices of victims of genocide, slave labour, mass purges and forced marriages to finally be heard. “Of all the crimes in Democratic Kampuchea, there was none graver than the relentless and systematic effort of the senior Khmer Rouge leaders to identify and ‘smash’ those they feared could one day oppose them,” she said. “The doors of this court cannot be closed until justice is done for the victims of these crimes.”

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