Five Khmer Rouge to go before the judges

23 July 2007 by Anne-Laure Porée and Chheang Bopha

On July 18, the prosecutors communicated their introductory submission to the investigating judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) responsible for trying former Khmer Rouge leaders. Five of them are suspected of having "committed, aided and abetted, or borne superior responsibility" for 25 separate acts of "murder, torture, forcible transfer, unlawful detention, forced labor, and religious, political, and ethnic persecution." Though their names remain officially confidential before arrest, they have already been cited by observers: Duch, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith.

Duch, who is now 65, is the former director of detention center S21, and has been awaiting trial in prison since may 1999. Nuon Chea, 80, was Duch's superior in the party hierarchy. Known under his pseudonym, "Brother Number Two," he is considered to be the party's ideologue. Ieng Sary, 78, is another former pillar of the regime. He called for Cambodian intellectuals to return to their country, and when they did, many of their lives were cut short at S21. In 1979, Ieng Sary was sentenced to death in absentia, but was pardoned by the king after rallying to the Cambodian government in the late 1990s. Finally, Khieu Samphan, now 76, headed the state of Democratic Kampuchea. He and Nuon Chea turned themselves in to the Cambodian authorities at the end of 1998. The last suspect is Ieng Thirith, the wife of Ieng Sary, vice-minister of Education and then of Social Affairs from 1975 to 1979. The five suspects' pictures have appeared on the front page of the pro-government daily Rasmey Kampuchea. Other than Duch, all of the suspects live in freedom in Cambodia.

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