October 17, 2014 – The genocide trial of two former Khmer Rouge leaders will resume today at a UN-backed court in Cambodia to consider charges of mass murder, forced marriage and rape perpetrated against Vietnamese people and ethnic Muslims in the 1970s.
Nuon Chea, 88, known as “Brother Number Two”, and ex-head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, have already been given life sentences after a separate trial at the same court in August for crimes against humanity.
That ruling saw them become the first top figures to be jailed from a regime responsible for the deaths of up to two million Cambodians from 1975-1979.
Both men have appealed their convictions, which followed a two-year trial focused on the forced evacuation of around two million Cambodians from Phnom Penh into rural labour camps and murders at one execution site.
The complex case against the pair was split into a series of smaller trials in 2011 to get a faster verdict given the vast number of accusations and their advanced age.
The second trial, which opened in July, resumes at 9am (10am Singapore time) on Friday with an opening statement by the prosecutors and an opportunity for the accused to respond.
Deputy co-prosecutor William Smith said the hearings “will ensure a more comprehensive accounting” of the crimes of which the ex-leaders are accused, so that “Cambodia’s past is not buried but built and learnt from”. Prosecutors will call upon their first witness on Monday.
The mass killings of an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 ethnic Cham Muslims and 20,000 Vietnamese form the basis of the genocide charges against the pair. Before these charges were filed, the treatment of the minority Muslim group and Vietnamese community was rarely discussed.
“The ways in which the Khmer Rouge mistreated us is too heinous to describe in words. Their goal was to exterminate our race,” said Seth Maly, a 64-year-old Cham labour camp survivor who lost 100 of her relatives, mostly through execution, during the regime – including her two daughters, parents and five siblings.
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan also face charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the second trial – for the deaths of up to two million people through starvation, overwork or execution during the communist regime.