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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Case 002/02 Starts at the ECCC

Case 002/02 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – begins initial hearings today. Case 002 began in November 2011; since then, one of the defendants has died, another has been ruled unfit to stand trial and the case has been separated into an undecided number of sub-trials or “mini-trials” – of which Case 002/02 is one. The twists and turns in one of the most complex trials in Cambodia – and perhaps in all of the world – make it a difficult and complicated one to keep up with. Here is a primer on the ECCC and Case 002/02 to help you keep it straight.

What is the ECCC?

The ECCC was established within the Cambodian judicial system following an agreement between the Royal Government of Cambodia and the United Nations, and was officially inaugurated in 2006. The hybrid court is tasked with the trial of “senior leaders” and those “most responsible” for crimes allegedly committed between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million up to 2.2 million Cambodians – a quarter of the total population.

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