The trial for Case 002 before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia began on November 2011. The case was initially against four senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime — Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, and Ieng Thirith for crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and crimes under Cambodian Law. However, Ieng Thirith was released from prison in September 2012 after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and found mentally incapable to stand trial, and Ieng Sary died in March 2013.
Due to the complexity of the case and the age of the accused, the Trial Chamber issued a decision to sever the case into small mini trials. The first mini trial, Case 002/1, began on November 21, 2011 and covered crimes against humanity related to the forced movement of the population from Phnom Penh in April 1975 and later from other regions (known as Population Movement Phases One and Two) and the execution of Khmer Republic soldiers at the Toul Po Chrey execution site in Pursat immediately after the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975.
The historic trial consisted of over 20 months of evidentiary hearings and included live testimony from 92 witnesses including 31 Civil Parties. The trial covered the historical background of the crimes, the administrative and communication structures of the regime, the Khmer Rouge military structure, and the forced evacuations of the population as well as the executions of former Lon Nol officials.
The trial also uncovered evidence of a common criminal plan of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, the party that governed the Khmer Rouge regime, including the defendants on trial. The plan consisted of five core policies that impacted the entire the country: forced movement from urban to rural areas; forced labor in worksites and cooperatives; use of violence to “smash”, or kill, enemies through a nationwide network of reeducation or security offices; persecution of Buddhists, Cham and Vietnamese; and forced marriage. The common criminal plan resulted in the widespread and systematic detention, forced labor, death and destruction of civilian population in Cambodia. Read more about the hearing on evidence here.
Victim Impact Hearings
At the close of the trial, the court held a week-long Victim Impact Hearing on the harms suffered by the civil parties, in order to determine the appropriate reparations for victim’s participating in Case 002/1. Fifteen civil parties who survived the Khmer Rouge atrocities testified about their experience and their immediate and lasting suffering as a result of the crimes. See a summary of the civil party statements here.
CJA client Sophany Bay testified on June 4, 2013 regarding the harms inflicted upon her and her family during the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh and the continued impact of these harms experienced by herself and community of Khmer Rouge victims in the United States diaspora.
Video testimony is available here and a detailed summary of her testimony is available here. Sophany lost all three of her children as a result of the Khmer Rouge regime’s brutality and discussed the long-term mental health problems that victims of the regime suffer as a result of such harms, regardless of the time elapsed or the distance from Cambodia. During the pronouncement of the judgment against Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, the court specifically named Sophany as a victim of the Khmer Rouge’s evacuation of Phnom Penh, and recognized that her daughter died as a result of the evacuation. The judgment provided a long awaited recognition of the harms suffered by Ms. Bay and all of the victims.
The hearings ended with the testimony of psychological expert, Dr. Chim Sotheara, who described the harms of the Cambodian people living in Cambodia and abroad (especially in the United States) and described the high levels of PTSD among survivors living inside and outside of Cambodia. These statements helped determine the gravity of the harms committed against the Cambodian people and are important in recognizing the continued impact of these crimes. The testimony of the psychological expert is available here.
Case 002/1 – Judgment
On August 7, 2014, the court sentenced the two former senior leaders to life imprisonment for the crimes against humanity committed during the start of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Specifically, the Trial Chamber found that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, along with other Khmer Rouge officials, were part of a joint criminal enterprise to achieve the common purpose of implementing a socialist revolution and that they executed this purpose, in part, by forcibly displacing people from cities and towns to rural areas. During the first forced transfer of Phnom Penh in April 1975, nearly 2 million people were evacuated from the city under false pretexts and threats.
The court recognized that people were forced to evacuate without adequate food, water, medical care, or accommodation and transport and as a result, many people died from exhaustion, malnutrition, and disease, including the children of CJA client Sophany Bay (whom the court specifically cited as a victim of the first movement of the population).
As a result, the court found the two defendants guilty of crimes against humanity, murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts (comprising forced transfers and attacks against human dignity) during the forced movement of the population from Phnom Penh, known as the phase one forced transfer. Second, the court found the senior leaders responsible for the second phase of the movement of the population, during which approximately 430,000 people were forcibly displaced throughout Cambodia between September 1975 and December 1977, which, like the first phase, resulted in the death and starvation of the civilian population.
The court found the senior leaders guilty of crimes against humanity of political persecution and other inhumane acts (comprising forced transfers and attacks against human dignity) during movement of population in phase two forced transfers. Lastly, the court found the senior officials furthered the joint criminal enterprise by implementing the policy of the Khmer Rouge to target former Khmer Republic officials, which resulted in the execution of at least 250 Lon Nol officials at Tuol Po Chrey immediately after April 17, 1975. The court found the leaders guilty of murder and extermination of Khmer Republic officials at Tuol Po Chrey. Both defendants have appealed the judgment and a decision from the Supreme Court Chamber is pending.
For all three crimes, the court sentenced the officials to life imprisonment and found that as a consequence of the crimes, the 3,866 Civil Parties in the case suffered immeasurable harm, including physical suffering, economic loss, and psychological trauma.
As a result, the Trial Chamber endorsed 11 reparations projects to benefit the victims. These include: the institution of a National Remembrance Day project; the construction of a memorial in Phnom Penh to honor victims of forced evacuations; a testimonial therapy project; the establishment of self-help groups; a permanent exhibition; a mobile exhibition and education project; the inclusion of a chapter on forced population movement and executions at Tuol Po Chrey within the Cambodian school curriculum; the construction of a peace learning center; a booklet on adjudicated facts and civil party participation at the ECCC; two editions of the verdict in Case 002/01; and inclusion of Civil Party names on the ECCC website.