Khmer Rouge Trials
at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia was established to prosecute senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for the crimes committed by the regime between April 17, 1975 and January 6, 1979. Our monitoring of the tribunal ended in August 2020. The content on this page will be available for future reference, and past reports are also located on the Open Society Justice Initiative website.
Open Society Justice Initiative Urges UN to End Support for Blocked Khmer Rouge Cases
Khmer Rouge Tribunal Leaves Unresolved Whether New Case Will Proceed to Trial
New Challenges to the Legacy of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: Developments and Completion Timeline
Concerns over Bid to Wrap Up Outstanding Investigations at Cambodia’s ECCC
ECCC Supreme Court Affirms Life Sentences for Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea while Criticizing Trial
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts in Cambodia: Lessons in Human Rights Ignored by Cambodian Government
Lessons from Cambodia for Hybrid Tribunals in Sri Lanka and Central African Republic: Part III of III
New Report Sees Progress at Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal
Name: Kaing Guak Eav, alias Duch
Charges: Crimes against humanity and war crimes, including extermination, torture, enslavement, and imprisonment.
Summons to appear issued: July 31, 2007
Trial start date: March 30, 2009
Trial judgment: July 26, 2010
Appeal judgment: February 3, 2012
Names: Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan (The case originally had four accused: Ieng Thirith was determined unfit to stand trial because of age related dementia and Ieng Sary died of old age mid-trial.)
Charges: Crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide
Summons to appear issued: September 19 and November 19, 2007
- Trial start date: November 21, 2011
- Trial judgment: August 7, 2014; convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.
- Appeal judgment: November 23, 2016
- Trial start date: October 17, 2014
Name: Meas Muth
Charges: Crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, persecution on political and ethnic grounds, and other inhumane acts allegedly committed at Wat Enta Nhien security center, Kampong Som, Kratie, S-21 security center, and against Vietnamese, Thai, and other foreigners. War crimes, including the unlawful confinement of civilians, willful deprivation of a prisoner of war of civilian’s rights to a fair trial, willful killing, unlawful deportation or transfer, willful causing of great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and torture, all allegedly committed in the same locations against the same groups.
Name: Yim Tith
Charges: Genocide of the Khmer Krom, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, violations of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code, and crimes against humanity, including: murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation; imprisonment; torture; persecution against the so-called “17 April people,” “East Zone Evacuees,” Northwest Zone cadres, their families, and subordinates, as well as the Khmer Krom and Vietnamese; and other inhumane acts, including forced marriage.
Name: Im Chaem
Charges: Crimes against humanity, including: murder; extermination; enslavement; imprisonment; persecution on political grounds; and other inhumane acts, allegedly committed at Phnom Trayoung security center and Spean Sreng worksite.
Name: Ao An
Charges: Genocide of the Cham, violations of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code, and crimes against humanity, including: murder; extermination; enslavement; imprisonment; torture against the so-called “17 April people”, former Lon Nol soldiers, Central (Old North) Zone cadres, their families and subordinates, people from the East Zone, and other “bad elements” and “internal enemies;” persecution against Cham and Vietnamese people; and other inhumane acts including forced marriage, rape, enforced disappearances, physical abuse, forced labor, and inhumane conditions of detention.
What happened during the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia?
The Khmer Rouge was the name given to the Communist Party of Cambodia, which controlled Cambodia from April 1975 until being driven from Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese in January 1979. Originally part of the Vietnamese-backed Indochinese Communist Party, the Khmer Rouge fought first against the neutral Cambodian government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, and then U.S. backed military government of General Lon Nol, in a conflict that escalated in parallel to the war in neighboring Vietnam.
Under its leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge adopted a form of radical Marxism that called for the creation of a classless society; its years in power were marked by brutal executions and mass killings, as the party sought first to eliminate perceived class enemies and then to purge itself of supposed Vietnamese influence. The party’s efforts to dismantle the traditional structures of Cambodian society and to cut all ties with the outside world resulted in hundreds of thousands of additional deaths from famine. It is estimated that some 1.7 million people died during the regime’s years in power. After the 1979 Vietnamese invasion, the Khmer Rouge leadership went into exile on the border with Thailand, continuing to fight with other non-Communist opposition groups against the Vietnamese installed government of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), whose leaders included the current Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen.
The Vietnamese withdrew their troops in 1989 and in 1991, with the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) managed the country through elections in 1993 and oversaw the repatriation of more than 350,000 Cambodian refugees from camps near the Thai border. The vestiges of the revolutionary guerrilla movement did not finally collapse until 1998. Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who fled the regime in the late 1970s, has held nearly complete power in Cambodian since 1998.
How was the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) established?
In 1997, the Cambodian government requested the United Nation’s (UN) assistance in prosecuting senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. Extensive negotiations took place between the UN and the government of Cambodia about the balance between domestic and international control and features of the court. An agreement was reached in 2003 to establish the ECCC as a hybrid court, based in Phnom Penh, with a majority of Cambodian judges, but with significant international judicial participation and protections designed to ensure that international fair trial standards were met and to try to ensure impartiality and accountability. The court has two co-prosecutors and two co-investigating judges, one Cambodian and one international in each office, responsible for prosecutions and judicial investigations. The majority of the court staff is Cambodian, appointed by the government of Cambodian. The international representatives present in each organ of the court are appointed or hired by the UN. The ECCC judges were sworn-in and the court began operating in 2006.
What cases have been brought to trial?
The court has jurisdiction to prosecute senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for the crimes committed by the regime between April 17, 1975 and January 6, 1979. Consistent with the Cambodian civil-law based system, initial investigations are made by the co-prosecutors, who then refer cases to the co-investigating judges for judicial investigation and a decision as to what charges are issued against which accused to submit for trial.
The first case to proceed to trial, Case 001, concerned charges against Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, which related to his role as the head of the notorious Toul Sleng prison where over 15,000 people were tortured and executed. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2010 but given credit for time served (he had been in pre-trial detention since 1999) and for a violation of internationally protected fair trial rights because of unlawful pre-trial detention by a Cambodian Military Court. In February 2012, the Supreme Court Chamber affirmed the judgment of guilt but increased the sentence to life in prison and eliminated the credit for the human rights violation on the theory that it could not be attributed to the ECCC.
There were originally four accused in Case 002. One accused, Ieng Thirith, has been found mentally unfit to stand trial because of age-related dementia. Her husband, Ieng Sary, died mid-trial in March 2013. The charges against the remaining accused, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, was divided into separate trials, so as to increase the likelihood that a judgment could be rendered on at least some of the charges before the elderly accused, now in their 80s, die or become incapable of proceeding. The first trial (Case 002/01) involved accusations of forced evacuation of Cambodians from cities and killings at one execution site. The trial ended in October 2013. On August 7, 2014, the Trial Chamber convicted Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan of crimes against humanity, including executions of former regime loyalists after the fall of Phnom Penh in April 1975, and the forced evacuation of the civilian population of the capital, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. They were both sentenced to life imprisonment.
The second phase trial in Case 002 began on October 17, 2015. The charges in Case 002/02 include genocide of the Cham Muslims and Vietnamese; forced marriages, rape, torture, and executions at security centers; internal purges of the regime; and torture, murder, and abuses at forced worksites and cooperatives. The trial is currently ongoing before the Trial Chamber.
Cases 003 and 004 have been under judicial investigation since 2009. The suspects in Case 003 and 004 are not accused of being ‘senior leaders’ of the Khmer Rouge, but rather of being a step below that of the senior leadership yet still in a position of being ‘most responsible’ for serious crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.
Will there be future trials at the ECCC?
Whether the suspects in Cases 003 and 004 will be tried or not is yet to be determined. Cambodian government officials have stated they do not want the cases to move forward and have warned that further proceedings could harm stability in Cambodia. The international co-investigating judge is pursuing the investigation without the assistance of his Cambodian counterpart, who claims that the suspects in Cases 003 and 004 are not within the category of persons ‘most responsible’ for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. International observers have raised concerns about political interference in the progress of these cases.
The court is funded by contributions from governments, including the Government of Cambodia. Funding shortfalls and crisis have plagued the court repeatedly, especially in recent years, as the court’s work has lasted far longer than originally expected.
- Kaing Guak Eav, alias Duch: Ran the S-21 prison known as Toul Sleng.
- Nuon Chea: Also known as “Brother Number 2.” Served as deputy secretary of the Communist Party of Cambodia.
- Khieu Samphan: The Khmer Rouge regime’s titular head of state and foreign minister.
- Ieng Sary: Served as the Khmer Rouge minister of foreign affairs. Died in 2013, before the trial concluded.
- Ieng Thirith: Served as the minister of social affairs in the Khmer Rouge regime. She has been deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.
- Meas Muth: Former Secretary Division 164 of the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea and Commander of the Navy in Cambodia from April 1975 to January 1979.
- Im Chaem: Served as the Secretary of Preah Net Preah District in the Northwest Zone.
- Ao An: Served as the Central Zone Deputy Secretary and Sector 41 Secretary.
- Yim Tith: Served as the Southwest Zone Sector 13 Secretary, Kirovong District Secretary, and Northwest Zone Deputy Secretary and Sectors 1, 3 and 4 Secretary.
- Chea Leang, National Co-Prosecutor
- Nicholas Koumjian, International Co-Prosecutor
For Kaing Guak Eav, Case 001
- Kar Savuth
- Francois Roux (Discharged by Duch in 2010)
- Kang Ritheary
For Nuon Chea, Case 002
- Son Arun
- Victor Koppe
For Khieu Samphan, Case 002
- Kong Sam Onn
- Anta Guissé
For Meas Muth, Case 003
- Ang Udom
- Michael Karnavas
For Im Chaem, Case oo4/01
- Bit Seanglim
- Wayne Jordash, QC
For Ao An, Case 004
- Mom Luch
- Richard Rogers
- Göran Sluiter
For Yim Tith, Case 004
- So Mosseny
- Suzana Tomanovic
- You Bunleng, National Co-Investigating Judge
- Michael Bohlander, International Co-Investigating Judge
Trial Chamber Judges
- Nil Nonn, National Judge (President)
- Claudia Fenz, International Judge
- Ya Sokhan, National Judge
- Jean-Marc Lavergne, International Judge
- You Ottara, National Judge
Pre-Trial Chamber Judges
- Prak Kimsan, National Judge (President)
- Olivier Beauvallet, International Judge
- Ney Thol, National Judge
- Baik Kang Jin, International Judge
- Huot Vuthy, National Judge
Supreme Court Chamber Judges
- Kong Srim, National Judge (President)
- Agnieszka Klonowiecka-Milart, International Judge
- Som Sereyvuth, National Judge
- Chandra Nihal Jayasinghe, International Judge
- Mong Monichariya, National Judge
- Florence Ndepele Mwachande Mumba, International Judge
- Ya Narin, National Judge
Key groups, Organizations and Individuals
- The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam): An independent Cambodian research institute dedicated to documenting and preserving information about the Khmer Rouge regime.
- Tony Kranh: Director of the Office of Administration. The office of administration handles the relations with the courts’ donors.
- Knut Rosandhaug: Deputy Director of the Office of Administration and Coordinator for United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials.
- Pol Pot: The leader of the Khmer Rouge. Died in 1998 before the tribunal proceedings began.
- Ambassador David Scheffer: Former U.N. Secretary-General Special Expert on United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge. Trials.
Negotiations between the United Nations (UN) and the Cambodian government are initiated.
Kaing Guak Eav, alias Duch, is arrested and taken into custody by the Cambodian Military court. He is transferred to the jurisdiction of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on July 31, 2007.
The Agreement between the UN and the Government of Cambodia to establish the ECCC comes into force.
September 19, 2007
Nuon Chea is arrested.
November 12, 2007
Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith are arrested.
November 19, 2007
Khieu Samphan is arrested.
February 17, 2009
Kaing Guak Eav trial (Case 001) begins.
September 7, 2009
Official investigations regarding Cases 003 and 004 are requested.
July 26, 2010
Kaing Guak Eav is found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes and sentenced to 35 years in prison. His sentence is later increased to life in prison by the appellate court.
June 27, 2011
Initial hearing is held in Case 002 with all four accused.
November 17, 2011
Ieng Thirith, an accused in Case 002, is determined unfit to stand trial because of age-related dementia.
November 21, 2011
Opening statements begin in Case 002/01. The trial covers charges relating to atrocities committed during the evacuation of Cambodian cities and towns in 1975 and the executions of civil servants and military officers from the former regime.
March 14, 2013
Ieng Sary, an accused in Case 002, dies of old age mid-trial.
Case 002/01 trial is completed and deliberations on judgment begin.
August 7, 2014
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are found guilty of crimes against humanity, including executions of former regime loyalists after the fall of Phnom Penh in April 1975, and the forced evacuation of the civilian population of the capital, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. They are both sentenced to life imprisonment.
October 17, 2015
Opening statements begin in Case 002/02. The trial covers genocide charges against the Cham Muslims and Vietnamese; forced marriages, rape, torture, and executions at security centers; internal purges of the regime; and torture, murder, and abuses at forced worksites and cooperatives.
March 3, 2015
The international investigating judge at the ECCC issues charges against Meas Muth in Case 003, the former Khmer Rouge naval commander, and Im Chaem in Case 004/01, who was senior regional commander.
March 27, 2015
Ao An is charged with premeditated homicide and crimes against humanity in Case 004/02. On March 16, 2016, he is charged with additional alleged crimes, including genocide.
December 9, 2015
Yim Tith makes his initial appearance at the ECCC, where he was formally charged in Case 004 with crimes against humanity, genocide, and other crimes.
November 23, 2016
The Supreme Court Chamber at the ECCC upholds part of the conviction against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan on appeal of Case 002/01 and confirms their sentence of life imprisonment.
However, the Supreme Court Chamber reverses the convictions entered by the Trial Chamber for the crime against humanity of extermination in relation to the evacuation of Phnom Penh and the second phase of population transfers. Also in relation to the second phase of population transfers, the Supreme Court Chamber reverses the convictions for the crime against humanity of persecution on political grounds.
January 11, 2017
Evidentiary hearings of Case 002/02 are official closed by the Trial Chamber.
February 22, 2017
Co-investigating judges dismiss the charges against former Khmer Rouge senior regional commander Im Chaem in case 004/01. The judges find that she is not subject to the court’s jurisdiction because she was neither a senior leader nor one of the most responsible officials of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The international co-prosecutor later appeals this decision, which is still pending before the pre-trial chamber of the court.
November 14, 2017
The international and national co-prosecutors file their final submissions in Case 003 concerning the investigation of Meas Muth. The international co-prosecutor recommends indictment based on evidence submitted, but the national co-prosecutor recommends that the case is dismissed because Meas Muth was not a senior leader of the Khmer Rouge and therefore not subject to jurisdiction of the ECCC.
February 27, 2018
Both Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are confirmed as fit to stand trial for Case 002/02 after examinations by medical experts.
November 16, 2018
Trial Chamber issues a second judgment against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in Case 002/02, finding both accused guilty on a number of charges and handing both second sentences of life in prison.
March 31, 2019
The court administration issues an updated Completion Plan for cases 003, 004 and 004/02.
August 4, 2019
Nuon Chea dies in detention while the appeal on the second judgment is still pending.
August 10, 2020
The Supreme Court Chamber terminates Case 004/02 against Ao An.