PHNOM PENH: Two top leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime were found guilty of genocide, in a landmark ruling almost 40 years after the fall of a brutal regime that presided over the deaths of a quarter of the population.
The Khmer Rouge’s former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, and “Brother Number 2” Nuon Chea, 92, are the two most senior living members of the ultra-Maoist group that seized control of Cambodia from 1975-1979.
The reign of terror led by “Brother Number 1” Pol Pot left some two million Cambodians dead from overwork, starvation and mass executions but Friday’s ruling was the first to acknowledge a genocide.
The defendants were previously handed life sentences in 2014 over the violent and forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975.
But Friday’s judgement at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) also found Nuon Chea guilty of genocide against the ethnic Vietnamese and Cham Muslim minority group, among a litany of other crimes.
“The chamber finds that Nuon Chea exercised ultimate decision-making power with Pol Pot and ... therefore finds Nuon Chea is responsible as a superior for all the crimes,” presiding judge Nil Nonn said.
“This includes the crime of genocide by killing members of the Cham ethnic and religious group.”
Khieu Samphan was also found guilty of genocide against ethnic Vietnamese, though not against the Cham, he added.
Both parties were sentenced to “life in prison”, merging the two sentences into a single term, Nil Nonn said. — AFP