Two top Khmer Rouge leaders have been jailed for life after being convicted by Cambodia’s UN-backed tribunal of crimes against humanity, BBC News reported on Thursday.
Nuon Chea, 88, served as deputy of Pol Pot, the leader of the Maoist regime. Khieu Samphan, 83, was Khmer Rouge head of state. They are the first top-level leaders to be held accountable for the regime’s crimes.
Up to two million people are believed to have died under the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975-1979 — most of them of starvation and overwork or executed as enemies of the state.
The two men were guilty of “extermination encompassing murder, political persecution, and other inhumane acts comprising forced transfer, enforced disappearances and attacks against human dignity,” Judge Nil Nonn was quoted as saying.
“My anger remains in my heart,” Suon Mom, 75, whose husband and four children starved to death, told the Associated Press.
Youk Chang, another survivor, told the BBC the verdict was “a little too late for many” but said it was vital the trial took place.
“It’s important for the young population to learn this lesson so that we can prevent such atrocity from occurring anywhere, not just in Cambodia,” he said.
The Khmer Rouge sought to establish an agrarian society with cities emptied and their residents forced to work on rural co-operatives. Many died from overwork and starvation as the economy collapsed.
During four violent years, the regime also killed all those it perceived as enemies — intellectuals, minorities, former officials — and their families, the report said.
Lawyers for the two Khmer Rouge leaders said they would appeal against the ruling. “It is unjust for my client. He did not know or commit many of these crimes,” Son Arun, a lawyer for Nuon Chea, told reporters.
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