First Verdict for Top Khmer Rouge Leaders Handed Down at the ECCC

This morning, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – better known at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – handed down its first verdict in Case 002, against two of the most senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge: Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. Both were convicted of crimes against humanity – including murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts – undertaken as part of a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) and sentenced to life in prison.

The guilty verdict is a welcome step forward in achieving justice for the victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge. But with the first verdict against senior leaders* coming down over 35 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, there are concerns that justice will mean too little at this point in time, especially as many of the Khmer Rouge’s survivors have passed away in the meantime.

These concerns are compounded by the fact that this verdict is only for a small section of the charges brought forth in Case 002. Due to the scope represented by Case 002, the ECCC decided to split the case into a series of “mini-trials” – the verdict delivered today is for Case 002/01, which only looked at the forced movement of the population from Phnom Penh (Phase I) and later from other regions (Phase II), and at the execution of soldiers of the Khmer Republic at the Toul Po Chrey execution site, which took place at the very beginning of the Khmer Rouge period – leaving many issues to be tried during future “mini-trials.”

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