Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan facing the court

The last surviving Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan is challenging his 2018 conviction for genocide against ethnic-minority Vietnamese.

The former Khmer Rouge head of state began an appeal against his life imprisonment for his role in the genocide committed by the regime in Cambodia more than four decades ago. 

He is now 90 years old and still fighting the court battle.

On Monday, his lawyers argued that the UN-backed court had not given proper weightage to evidence in the former leader’s favor and took a “selective approach” to witness testimony.

They also said the tribunal had convicted him using legal criteria that he could not have known when the alleged crimes took place more than 40 years ago.

According to court officials, the hearing in Phnom Penh is due to last until Thursday and Khieu Samphan is said to testify at the close of the appeal hearing. 

He claimed that he was not part of the killing machine that exterminated nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population, denying responsibility for the mass murders and other abuses against Cham Muslims and ethnic Vietnamese. The atrocities were chillingly described by over 100 witnesses over the span of the trial.

The hybrid court uses a mix of Cambodian and international law and was created with UN backing in 2006 to try senior Khmer Rouge leaders. It has convicted only three people so far and cost more than $300 million.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is a former Khmer Rouge cadre himself and has spoken against any further cases, claiming it would plunge the country into instability.

Other members of the Khmer Rouge, such as Nuon Chea, were jailed for life for genocide and a plethora of other crimes, such as forced marriages and rapes.

Many were handed life sentences by courts for crimes against humanity over the violent forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975, when Khmer Rouge troops drove the population of the capital into rural labor camps.

The brutal group, led by Pol Pot, left two million Cambodians dead from overwork, starvation, and mass executions from 1975 to 1979.

Pol Pot, who wanted to transform Buddhist-majority Cambodia into an agrarian utopia, died in 1998 without facing trial.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here