Khmer leader who killed Aussies sentenced

Khmer Rouge leaders found guilty of genocide that killed millions

In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, left, former Khmer Rouge head of state, stands at the dock in a courtroom during a hearing at the United Nations -backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 16, 2018.

After years of preparation and investigation, on January 13, 2011 four senior leaders are referred to the war crimes tribunal set up on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, formally called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

Initial work had been done on two more cases involving four middle-ranking members of the Khmer Rouge, but they have been scuttled or bottled up by the tribunal, which is a hybrid court in which Cambodian prosecutors and judges are paired with global counterparts.

A UN-backed tribunal has found them guilty of genocide.

However, the judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal said that while genocide was also committed against the minority Cham - Muslims who were forced to eat pork, banned from prayer, and had their Korans burned - the two men did not have "genocidal intent".

A man cleans a skull near a mass grave at the Chaung Ek torture camp run by the Khmer Rouge in this undated photo.

Both Chea and Samphan reportedly did not deny that they were key leaders of Khmer Rouge in the 1970s but said they had no role to play in the genocide which wiped off 25% of the country's population at the time.

They sought to create a self-reliant, agrarian society: cities were emptied and residents forced to work on rural co-operatives.

Lawyers for Nuon Chea said they would appeal, and Khieu Samphan was expected to do the same. "Last night, I could not sleep because I was afraid that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan could die before this verdict was announced".

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More than 1.7 million Cambodians, nearly a quarter of the population, were murdered between 1975 and 1979, as Pol Pot, known as "Brother Number 1", attempted to forcibly transform the nation into a socialist agrarian republic.

Khieu Samphan, looking frail and gaunt, stood in the dock with the help of prison guards when Nil Nonn read the verdict.

There are fears that politics will thwart the tribunal from undertaking any further prosecutions.

Initial work had been done on two more cases involving four middle-ranking members of the Khmer Rouge, but they have been scuttled or bottled up by the tribunal, which is a hybrid court in which Cambodian prosecutors and judges are paired with global counterparts.

In 2010, Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010, for war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, and torture.

Hun Sen himself was a midlevel Khmer Rouge commander before defecting while the group was still in power, and several senior members of his ruling Cambodian People's Party share similar backgrounds.

The ground rules under which the tribunal was established in 2005 are complicated, providing for hybrid courts pairing Cambodian judges and prosecutors with global counterparts.

Although there are cases against four other Khmer Rouge members, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has been vocal about his opposition to the tribunal starting any new trials and there is little chance this will happen. "But justice is usually delivered, even if at times, as has been the case with the ECCC, it staggers across the finish line".

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