Justice is not perfect. But it’s better than no justice…what’s the alternative?
The sentencing of the two senior most living leaders of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime of Kampuchea will probably be the high water mark of a controversial trial, which has lasted 12 years and cost $320 million.
Pressure from the Government of Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge leader who later defected, has hindered the process considerably.
Khieu Samphan, 87, Khmer Rouge Head of State, and Nuon Chea, 92, second-in-command to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, were already serving life sentences given in 2014 for crimes against humanity committed between 1977-79.
This time, they were convicted of genocide and mass rape which occurred through a state policy of forced marriages.
"They were convicted of genocide and mass rape which occurred through a State policy of forced marriages"
The verdict, given by Judge Nil Nonn, detailed the horrific acts committed inside the infamous S-21 prison, overseen by Nuon Chea for two years. As the list of crimes was read out, Nuon Chea, described as Pol Pot’s right hand and asked to be led out of the courtroom.
The judgement, by a panel of three Kampuchean and two international judges, said that Khieu Samphan “encouraged, incited and legitimized the criminal policies that led to the deaths of civilians “on a massive scale.”
Khieu Samphan represented Kampuchea during the Non-Aligned Conference in Colombo in 1976. The court declared both men responsible for murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution on religious, racial and political grounds, enforced disappearances and mass rape. By 1979, when a Vietnamese invasion forced the Khmer Rouge to flee, one in four Kampucheans (about 1.7 million people) had been killed.
The trials were conducted by the extraordinary chambers in the courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and face faced criticism over snail’s pace progress and the low number of convictions.
"Khmer Rouge leaders are sentenced for Crimes Against Humanity"
There have only been three so far. The first to be convicted was Kaing Guek Eav (Comrade Duch), who ran the SS-21 camp where at least 14,000 people were tortured to death.
There are three more Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial, but Hun Sen is opposing this, claiming that further cases risked plunging Cambodia into civil war.
But Alexander Hinton, director of the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights, and UNESCO chair on genocide prevention at Rutgers University said:
“Justice is not perfect. But it’s better than no justice. And what’s the alternative? Impunity for mass murder.”
Source: The Guardian UK