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Former Khmer Rouge official appeals verdict on genocide in Cambodia

By The Associated Press

Phnom Penh: The last surviving leader of Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime’s inner circle launched an appeal in his court on Monday, seeking to persuade the long-running international tribunal to overturn his sentence on genocide charges Was.

Khiu Samphan, 90, was the former head of state for the radical communist regime, the Khmer Rouge, which ruled Cambodia with an iron fist from 1975 to 1979 and was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people.

His defense team is trying to overturn a 2018 ruling that found him guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, questioning the evidence and arguing there were procedural mistakes.

Kong Sam On told judges of the Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in Cambodia, or ECCC, that his client was given insufficient time to prepare a preliminary defence, and the original panel failed to provide grounds for it. Ruling on time, among other things.

“It must be null and void, and therefore I am requesting the Supreme Court Chamber to reverse the decision,” he said.

Khiu Samphan sat in a chair behind his lawyers, wearing a mask in compliance with COVID-19 precautions and appeared to listen carefully as he addressed the court.

Kong Sam On said his client would address the chamber at the end of the four-day scheduled hearing.

In preliminary statements prosecutors rejected procedural arguments, while ?? totality?? emphasized. In respect of the evidence against the defendant.

Prosecutor Chi Liang said, “Mr. Khiu Samphan failed to establish the claim that underpins his entire appeal, that he knew nothing, saw nothing and heard nothing about the crimes of which He was convicted for that.”

“Furthermore, the respondent, Mr. Khiu Samphan, fails to establish that his conduct does not make him liable for those offenses and that the evidence of his conviction, contrary to the claim of the appellant, is extensive, varied and compelling.”

Observers say it is unlikely the conviction will be reversed, and even if so, after the former leader pleaded guilty in 2014 to crimes against humanity involving forced transfers and disappearances. Already serving a life sentence.

That sentence was upheld on appeal in 2016.

“The appeal hearing is of great importance to both sides, the Cambodian victims and the accused,” said tribunal spokesman Neth Fectra.

The verdict won’t come until next year.

Under the leadership of the late Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge sought to eliminate all traces of corrupt bourgeois life, destroy most religious, financial and social institutions, and force millions from cities to live in the countryside.

The infamous ?murder areas of the Khmer Rouge?? Or elsewhere, while starvation, overwork and medical neglect took many more lives.

When the invasion of Vietnam finally toppled the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979, the horrors of the killings became truly known.

Khiu Samphan’s 2018 sentence was largely linked to crimes committed against the Vietnamese and Cham minorities in Cambodia.

He was found not guilty of genocide against the Cham, a Muslim ethnic minority, whose members, for lack of evidence, put up a short but fruitless resistance against the Khmer Rouge.

But he was found guilty of genocide of Vietnamese under the principle of joint criminal enterprise, whereby individuals can be held responsible for the actions of the group to which they belong.

His crimes against humanity’s punishment covered activities in work camps and cooperatives set up by the Khmer Rouge.

These included murder, destruction, deportation, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, persecution on political, religious and racial grounds, attacks on human dignity, forced marriage and rape.

He was found by the Khmer Rouge to “encourage, incite and legitimize criminal policies and make a significant contribution to the crimes committed”.

Violations of the Geneva Conventions governing war crimes included intentional killing, torture, and inhumane treatment.

During his trial, Khiu Samphan claimed that the charges against him were “Vietnamese propaganda?? and said that while he was aware of the allegations of being a victim under the Khmer Rouge, I categorically reject the word murderer.

After being ousted from power in 1979, the Khmer Rouge waged guerrilla warfare for another two decades before disintegrating.

Pol Pot died in the woods in 1998, and on Christmas Eve that year, Khiu Samphan surrendered along with the movement’s chief ideologue and its second-highest official, Nun Chi.

Nuon Chia was convicted with Khiu Samphan in 2018 and died the following year.

The ECCC Tribunal was established at the behest of Cambodia to bring the leaders of the Khmer Rouge to justice while in power.

Since the first judges and prosecutors performed their duties in 2006, however, the court has successfully convicted only three people in trials that cost approximately US$300 million.

Apart from Nuon Chi and Khiu Samphan, the only other leader convicted was Kaing Guek Eve, also known as Dutch, who, as head of the Khmer Rouge prison system, ran the infamous Tuol Sleng torture center in Phnom Penh.

He died in 2020 while serving a life sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Following the convictions of Khiu Samphan and Nuon Chia in 2018, the government of autocratic Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a mid-level Khmer Rouge commander, before defecting while the group was still in power, announced that no more The matters will not proceed, saying they will cause instability. .

Human rights lawyer Thierry Seung, who survived the Khmer Rouge massacre but lost his parents, criticized the trials as a political theater? Where Hun Sen and others are allowed to try themselves with the support of the United Nations insignia.

Nevertheless, she said she planned to attend the opening of the appeal to see the case against Khiu Samphan reach its conclusion.

“I have forgiven Khiu Samphan, as I have no intention of avenging, but this does not equate to holding him accountable,” she told the Associated Press in an email.

“I blame Khiu Samphan directly for the murders of my mom and dad, and take my childhood away from me to force me into a living hell.”

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