Senior Khmer Rouge Leaders Found Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide

November 16, 2018, Phnom Penh, Cambodia- In today’s long-awaited judgment in Case 002/2, the Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), found former Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, Nuon Chea, and former Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea Khieu Samphan guilty of crimes against humanity, including forced marriage and rape, genocide against the Vietnamese, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Nuon Chea was also seperately convicted of genocide of the Muslim Cham. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are both currently serving life sentences following their convictions for the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in an earlier trial (002/01), yet this case still has great significance for survivors and legal experts. “Today’s judgment confirms that the widespread and systematic nature of the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge was directed by its most senior leaders. The Court unequivocally acknowledged this important historic truth and the suffering of the victims and survivors who have bravely continued to seek accountability for the past four decades,” said Daniel McLaughlin, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Justice and Accountability, which represents 45 US-based Cambodian American clients before the ECCC in this case. “There is still much more that can and should be done for the victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge, including by this Court, but today’s verdict is an undeniable step forward.”

CJA client Sophany Bay, a Khmer Rouge survivor that testified against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in Case 002/1, said of today’s judgment: “I lost my children and nearly one hundred members of my family to the brutal policies of the Khmer Rouge. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, the senior leaders of the regime, have never taken responsibility for their acts that resulted in the death of millions of people. Today, the world knows the truth, and they can no longer deny the terrible things they did to our country.”

Khmer Rouge Survivor and CJA client in Case 002/2, Sophal Ear, added: “This verdict is the culmination of decades of efforts and represents a modicum of justice for the 1.7 million people who died, including my father, and my father-in-law. This verdict, however, is hardly enough–two Khmer Rouge leaders have been held responsible for policy decisions but what about between the garden variety Duch, director of Tuol Sleng, on the one hand, and Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, on the other hand? The Court needs to finish its remaining cases in order to bring accountability to Cambodia and confront the continuing exercise of impunity each and every day.”

The ECCC is a hybrid criminal tribunal located in Phnom Penh and composed of both Cambodian and international staff. “One of the successes of this hybrid tribunal, is that victims were able to participate directly and provide evidence as Civil Parties and Complainants before the Court,” said McLaughlin. “As this, and similar tribunals continue their work, it’s vital that these institutions provide victims and affected populations a sense of ownership over the proceedings and their outcomes. The justice rendered is first and foremost theirs.”


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In Case 002/2, CJA submitted to the Trial Chamber an expert report on the Mental Health Outcomes Resulting from Crimes Committed by the Khmer Rouge Regime. Read more in Cambodian Hidden Scars, Chapter 10: The Importance of Mass Trauma Evidence in Accountability before the ECCC.

In the first case against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, Case 002/1, both men were found guilty of crimes against humanity associated with the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh and the subsequent forced transfer of the population, as well as the executions of Lon Nol Soldiers at Tuol Po Chrey. The Court sentenced these two senior leaders to life imprisonment and awarded reparations to the 3,866 victims participating in the trial.

CJA represents over 140 US-based Cambodian clients in front of the ECCC. We expect updates in Cases 003 and 004 within the next year. Please contact us for further information.

About the Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA)

The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) is a San Francisco-based human rights legal organization dedicated to deterring torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other severe human rights abuses around the world through innovative litigation, policy and transitional justice strategies that strengthen the global net of accountability. CJA partners with victims and survivors in pursuit of truth, justice, and accountability for atrocity crimes. Visit