Closing statements at the Khmer Rouge tribunal today were dominated by prosecutor William Smith, who spent the better part of the day meticulously outlining the active participation of the two defendants in the decision making of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.
After first seeking to establish the existence of an overarching policy to eradicate members of the toppled Lon Nol regime, Smith went on to refute claims by the defence that Pol Pot alone held the reins of Democratic Kampuchea, and laid out the regime’s strict adherence to the principle that all policies be agreed upon collectively.
Starting with the liberation of Phnom Penh, Smith detailed Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan’s presence at the regime’s head offices and active involvement in planning, often referring to statements made by the defendants themselves.
“‘[Office] B5 was the command centre to attack Phnom Penh, to liberate Phnom Penh,’” Smith said, quoting the testimony of witness Phy Phuon. “‘The regular meetings were chaired by Om Pol Pot, who stayed at that location. Sometimes Om Nuon Chea and Om Khieu Samphan would come there, and sometimes they would convene a meeting with just the three of them.’”
“Every time that the defence asserts that the evacuation of Phnom Penh was conducted by autonomous zone armies, and that the party central leaders had nothing to do with the military and had no control over the troops that attacked and evacuated Phnom Penh, I want you to remember the picture of the B5 command base,” Smith added.
Smith asserted that the close working relationship between Chea, Samphan and Pol Pot continued after the capital’s fall, when the three shared an office for some time, working together “day and night,” according to witness statements.
The prosecutor also referred to an incident in which Chea forbade future mentions of Samphan in S-21 confessions after his name appeared in a transcript – evidence, Smith said, that “Nuon Chea had the will and power to save his loyal brother Khieu Samphan, and at the same time, allowed thousands of others to be tortured and killed”.
Smith also referred back to statements made by the defendants themselves seemingly indicating the existence of a joint criminal enterprise – in which members of a group with a common plan can be held individually responsible for the crimes of that group – a condition the prosecution has long sought to prove.
“In one of his moments of candour at trial, Nuon Chea could not have been any more clear. ‘Decisions [were] made collectively, and not individually, a universal principal that the party held onto firmly and implemented at every level, a principal that required discussion to continue until there was unanimous agreement’ – the definition of a joint criminal enterprise,” Smith said.
“Defence lawyers continue to quibble over this point in their closing submissions,” he continued. “No matter how skilled or clever their lawyering may be, they cannot avoid the unequivocal admissions their client has made in the courtroom.”