“Questionable” genocide trial

21 September 2010 by Lula Ahrens

“I’m afraid it won’t meet international standards,” warns Nuon Chea’s - or brother Number two’s -lawyer. He has serious doubts about the fairness of the trial which is set to start in 2011. Nuon Chea is among four former Khmer Rouge leaders indicted last week for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and, under Cambodian law, murder, torture and religious persecution, at Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal.

The four are surviving senior members of the hard-line communist Khmer Rouge movement. Former deputy to Khmer Rouge founder Pol Pot, Nuon Chea (84); foreign minister Ieng Sary (84), Sary’s wife and social affairs minister Iengh Thirith (78), and head of state Khieu Samphan (79) were charged by the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) in Phnom Pehn in December 2009.

They have been in detention since their arrests in 2007. The Khmer Rouge regime wiped out nearly a quarter of the country’s population between 1975 to 1979 in a bid to create an agrarian utopia. Up to two million people died from starvation, overwork or execution. The current genocide charges relate specifically to the deaths of Vietnamese people and ethnic Cham Muslims under the Pol Pot regime.

Estimates for the number of Cham who died under the Khmer Rouge range from 100,000 to 400,000. It is not known how many Vietnamese were killed. One of the suspects, Nuon Chea, is defended by Dutch lawyers Victor Koppe and Michiel Pestman.

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