International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Background

Case 001

Name: Kaing Guak Eav, alias Duch
Nationality: Cambodian
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

Case 002

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.)
Nationalities: Cambodian
Charges: Crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide
Summons to appear issued: September 19 and November 19, 2007

Case 002/01

  • 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

Case 002/02

  • Trial start date: October 17, 2014

Case 003 

Name:  Meas Muth
Nationality: Cambodian
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.

Case 004

Name: Yim Tith
Nationality: Cambodian
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.

Case 004/01

Name: Im Chaem
Nationality: Cambodian
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.

Case 004/02

Name: Ao An
Nationality: Cambodian
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.