Top Khmer Rouge leaders to stand trial

Victims of the Khmer Rouge regime
Victims of the Khmer Rouge regime Reuters

Four top Khmer Rouge leaders will stand trial for crimes against humanity and genocide, Cambodia's UN-backed court said today.The accused include...Nuon Chea, who served as deputy to Khmer Rouge founder Pol Pot - former foreign minister Ieng Sary - social affairs minister Ieng Thirith - and head of state Khieu Samphan. 


The four have been in detention since 2007 and deny the charges which relate to the rule of the regime, between 1975 and 1979. During this period up to 2.2 million people died from starvation, overwork or execution.

The announcement comes after the court's first conviction in July, which saw former prison chief Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, receive 30 years for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Judge You Bunleng hailed the decision as a success for the tribunal which has met with political interference from a Cambodian government which has many former Khmer Rouge figures in its ranks.

Prime minister, Hun Sen, who was a mid-level cadre in the Khmer Rouge before turning against the movement, said that year that he would prefer the court to fail rather than see new cases open.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the Cambodian people had been waiting for news of the indictments for more than 30 years.

Lars Olsen from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia agrees that this is an important decision.

"This will be a trial against those believed to be the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge,"  he says. "It is more about the system and the general planning of all the crimes in Cambodia which will be addressed rather than one single prison warden."

The trial is expected to begin in early 2011 and will likely be lengthy and complex with all four leaders disputing the charges against them.

The court is also investigation whether to open more cases against five other former Khmer Rouge officials.

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