Thursday, December 1, 2011

Trial of Khmer Rogue Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary - BBC

Khmer Rouge leaders facing trial
A UN-backed genocide tribunal in Cambodia is set to begin its second trial, this time of the top-most leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Up to two million people were killed or starved to death under Khmer Rouge rule in the 1970s.

Three main leaders - Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary - will be in court. Another, Ieng Thirith, has been found incapable of standing trial because of ill health.

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, was convicted last year in the tribunal's first case

1. Nuon Cheah

Nuon Chea, who is viewed as the chief ideologue of the movement, has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He is commonly known as Brother Number Two as he was second in command to the founder and leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot.

Nuon Chea defected from the Khmer Rouge in 1998 and was granted a pardon by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In December 2002 he was called to testify on behalf of the former Khmer Rouge general Sam Bith, who was sentenced to life in prison for ordering the kidnap and murder of three Western backpackers in 1994.

So far he has denied being involved in the atrocities that went on during the Khmer Rouge regime, but critics suggest that at the very least he was fully informed of what was happening.

2. Khieu Samphan

Khieu Samphan was the Khmer Rouge's official head of state.

He was the public face of the Khmer Rouge, and defected at the same time as Nuon Chea.

In its detention order, the prosecution alleged that Khieu Samphan "aided and abetted" the policies of the Khmer Rouge, which were "characterised by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts".

Khieu Samphan insists that, as head of state, he was never directly responsible for the deaths which happened under the regime.

Until his arrest, he was said to spend most of his time at his home in Pailin, once the movement's jungle headquarters, reading, listening to music or gardening.

3. Ieng Sary

Ieng Sary, also known as Brother Number Three, served as the country's foreign minister and was often the only point of contact between Cambodia's rulers and the outside world.

He is said to have been responsible for convincing many educated Cambodians who had fled the Khmer Rouge to return to help rebuild the country.

Many were then tortured and executed as part of the purge of intellectuals.

Ieng Sary became the first senior leader to defect in 1996 - and as a result was granted a royal pardon.

The United Nations says such a pardon cannot protect someone from prosecution, but Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has previously warned that going after Ieng Sary could re-ignite civil unrest in Cambodia

4. Ieng Thirith

Ieng Thirith was one of the Khmer Rouge's founding members and its most powerful woman.

Her sister was married to the movement's leader, Pol Pot, and she was married to Ieng Sary.

She served as the regime's social affairs minister. Prosecutors say she knew that tens of thousands of people were dying from starvation and disease on brutal collective farms - but did nothing to stop the disaster.

She denies any wrongdoing and is now ill. Judges say she is not mentally fit to stand trial, and have recommended that the case against her be suspended.

5. Previous case: Comrade Dutch

Comrade Duch (Kaing Guek Eav) was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity in July 2010.

A former maths teacher, he oversaw the Tuol Sleng interrogation centre in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

There as many as 15,000 men, women and children are thought to have been imprisoned, tortured and killed.

He says he acted under orders and would have been killed if he had failed to obey them.

6. Others who escaped

The man most wanted for crimes against humanity in Cambodia will never be brought to justice.

Pol Pot, the founder and leader of the Khmer Rouge, died in a camp along the border with Thailand in 1998.

Other key figures have also died, including Ta Mok, the regime's military commander and one of Pol Pot's most most-feared associates.

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime hope that the process of bringing the remaining leaders to justice will move on swiftly, before they become too old or ill to appear in the dock.

The Khmer Rogue

The Khmer Rouge was the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, but during this short time it was responsible for one of the worst mass killings of the 20th Century.

The brutal regime claimed the lives of more than a million people - and some estimates say up to 2.5 million perished.

Under the Marxist leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge tried to take Cambodia back to the Middle Ages, forcing millions of people from the cities to work on communal farms in the countryside.

But this dramatic attempt at social engineering had a terrible cost, and whole families died from execution, starvation, disease and overwork.

Communist philosophy

The Khmer Rouge had its origins in the 1960s, as the armed wing of the Communist Party of Kampuchea - the name the Communists used for Cambodia.

Based in remote jungle and mountain areas in the north-east of the country, the group initially made little headway.

But after a right-wing military coup toppled head of state Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, the Khmer Rouge entered into a political coalition with him and began to attract increasing support.

In a civil war that continued for nearly five years, it gradually increased its control in the countryside.

Khmer Rouge forces finally took over the capital, Phnom Penh, and therefore the nation as a whole in 1975.

During his time in the remote north-east, Pol Pot had been influenced by the surrounding hill tribes, who were self-sufficient in their communal living, had no use for money and were "untainted" by Buddhism.

When he came to power, he and his henchmen quickly set about transforming Cambodia - now re-named Kampuchea - into what they hoped would be an agrarian utopia.

Declaring that the nation would start again at "Year Zero", Pol Pot isolated his people from the rest of the world and set about emptying the cities, abolishing money, private property and religion, and setting up rural collectives.

Anyone thought to be an intellectual of any sort was killed. Often people were condemned for wearing glasses or knowing a foreign language.

Tens of thousands of the educated middle-classes were tortured and executed in special centres.

The most notorious of these centres was the S21 jail in Phnom Penh, where more than 17,000 men, women and children were imprisoned during the regime's four years in power.

Hundreds of thousands of others died from disease, starvation or exhaustion as members of the Khmer Rouge - often just teenagers themselves - forced people to do back-breaking work.

Opening up

The Khmer Rouge government was finally overthrown in 1979 by invading Vietnamese troops, after a series of violent border confrontations.

The higher echelons of the party retreated to remote areas of the country, where they remained active for a while but gradually became less and less powerful.

In the years that followed, as Cambodia began the process of reopening to the international community, the full horrors of the regime became apparent.

Survivors told their stories to shocked audiences, and in the 1980s the Hollywood movie The Killing Fields brought the plight of the Khmer Rouge victims to worldwide attention.

Pol Pot was denounced by his former comrades in a show trial in July 1997, and sentenced to house arrest in his jungle home.

But less than a year later he was dead - denying the millions of people who were affected by this brutal regime the chance to bring him to justice

The Nuon Cheah Defence - Phnom Penh Post

In an intimate two-hour history lesson as told from the viewpoint of the Khmer Rouge, “Brother Number 2” Nuon Chea portrayed himself as a defender of the Cambodian nation yesterday, telling the court that the actions of he and other regime leaders had been to protect the country from annihilation by Vietnam.

“I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” Nuon Chea told the tribunal, adding that he wanted “to give the facts to my beloved Cambodian people about what happened”. The former Khmer Rouge leader – who stands accused of crimes against humanity and genocide – spent the next two hours reading from a prepared statement that explained away prosecutors’ allegations regarding the regime’s forced migration of urban population centres, the subject of the first in a number of mini trials that will comprise Case 002.

An Unorthdox Defense

Nuon Chea launched his defence by alleging Vietnam had tried to occupy Cambodia and exterminate the Khmer race over an 80-year period, beginning with the formation of the communist parties of Indochina in 1930. “From the beginning, the Vietnamese employed every trick available to destroy the Khmer people,” he said. “Vietnam has ideals of invasion, expansion, land-grabbing and racial extermination.”

To this day, Vietnam continues to plant illegal immigrants in Cambodia, he added, saying that the Kingdom’s neighbour is trying to “swallow” it, “suffocating it like a python would a deer”.

“The Vietnamese factor is the main factor that caused confusion in Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979 [the period of the Khmer Rouge regime],” he said.

It was a less-than-traditional way to begin a legal case, said Anne Heindel of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

“It is a fascinating view of history … but a lot of the public will simply not understand or remember what he is talking about,” she said.

Placing Blame

The Trial Chamber has split Case 002 into a series of mini trials, with the first limited to forced movements of the population from urban areas in 1975 as well as some of the policies and organisational framework of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, or Khmer Rouge.

Because Case 002 has been split this way, the first trial will inevitably involve a great deal of examination of historical politics, much more so than future trials concerning forced marriage, interrogation or execution centres, Heindel told the Post.

“It appears we are going to hear arguments that it was all the fault of the lower levels, and ‘we had no control’,” Heindel said in reference to Nuon Chea’s claim that much of the Khmer Rouge cadre was polluted by bad elements – drunken, gambling, unemployed “vagabonds”.

Nuon Chea’s detailed statement, concerning the history of communism in Indochina and how the Khmer Rouge was effectively forced into action by Vietnamese “aggression”, appeared to comprise the bulk of his explanation for the brutal policies of the Khmer Rouge.

He intimately detailed a tranche of political meetings and correspondence within the communist party in Cambodia and between them and their Vietnamese counterparts, pointing to the political tensions at the time between Cambodia, Vietnam and the US as effectively forcing the hand of the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge.

The accused rounded out his speech by pointing to Vietnam’s “illegal invasion” of Cambodia in January 1979 – an invasion that effectively spelled the end of the Khmer Rouge regime – and pointed to modern day examples he said proved Vietnam was still trying to “conquer” the Kingdom.

Complexity in the Court

Nuon Chea – and fellow defendants Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan – will only have to answer to a narrow set of charges during the first mini trial, which does not include other criminal charges related to execution sites, forced labour or forced marriage and genocide.

Noun Chea’s defence attorney Michiel Pestman said that this decision by the tribunal has made what are already complex proceedings bewildering for both victims and the media.

“The public is left with the impression that all of the charges would be discussed at this trial, but that is not the case – this first trial is very limited,” Pestman said.

Despite the limited charges at play in the first trial, the co-prosecutors spent the first day and a half of opening statements delivering a graphic outline of the brutality and horror of the Khmer Rouge regime.

In his concluding remarks, British prosecutor Andrew Cayley said that from Geneva to Pyongyang, the three elderly co-accused had bragged about the bloody slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and defended their actions to the international community.

“[The accused] are common murderers of an entire generation of Cambodians,” Cayley concluded. “They robbed decades of development and prosperity, left gaping holes in every family – nothing is left unhurt or unaffected by what these three elderly men have done.”

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