ccording to international media, King Norodom Sihanouk has granted amnesty to
the Khmer Rouge dissidents' chief Ieng Sary.
As we are getting to know crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge towards the people
of Cambodia, it is worthwhile to find out how far this decision could reach.
Amnesty is usually defined as a measure to leave behind a public prosecutor's action
over offense to specific laws, but leave intact [the possibility] of civil action;
then anyone who suffers any harm is granted permission to claim legal redress.
Amnesty is not given to individuals mentioned by name; it is related to offenses
which are supposed to be pardoned. Anyone who is in that case can benefit from its
Then - according to that amnesty - after putting Cambodia to sword and fire from
1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge are supposed to be cleared of charges. Everything is
going as if they were untarnished of any crime. The public prosecutor's action is
off, the Department of Public Prosecution is not able to re-educate offenders to
normal behavior. Only civil action for legal redress is still available.
Therefore any person who had members of their family killed or wounded, or houses
destroyed under the Khmer Rouge rule is allowed to make claims for compensation.
The millions of dollars (from illegal trafficking of logs and gems) kept by the KR,
whose treasurer was Ieng Sary, could be used as compensation for the losses suffered
by these people.
If Cambodia is really a lawful state, its leaders should take necessary and sufficient
measures to permit these claims to be brought to a successful conclusion. They cannot
avoid their responsibility for they pretend to be the sole legitimate authorities
for all the country, and should detain the treasurer of the Khmer Rouge. If they
abstain from doing so, they would take the risk of being accused of being accomplices
of Ieng Sary, who controls the Khmer Rouge gem mines.
As a matter of fact, the consequences of that kind of amnesty should be evaluated
in accordance with Cambodian civil society. If horrible crimes committed by the KR
are granted amnesty, there will be no reason to refuse amnesty for crimes ranging
from murder to robbery (which are seen every day in Cambodia). This performs the
deadlock of the Royal Amnesty.
As for the instant effect expected from this move - the cease-fire with part of the
Khmer Rouge - amnesty will not benefit the state of Cambodia or its chief. For the
rebels are convinced that they stop fighting only if they are granted impunity. Then,
amnesty becomes a pawn of the war game. It is no more an act of magnanimity from
the man who grants it, as it lowers him to the same level as pariahs in desperation.
In any case, bloody crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, may not be faded
by amnesty without wounding society's ethics, and the nation's spirit and cohesiveness,
which are essential to the state's existence. At best, repentant criminals should
be granted a reprieve after a trial establishing all their deeds and ruling equitably
on their penalties.
Neither amnesty nor reprieves should be given without following the legal procedure.
Of course, by means of amnesty, the Parliament can wipe off retroactively crimes
defined by a law on amnesty, whoever its authors. Then, all the Khmer Rouge, even
the most cruel can enjoy impunity. Nobody can punish them, even though they are always
liable to repair they damage they caused to others; their civil responsibility is
Do they intend to reprieve only Ieng Sary, in exchange for his cease-fire? A reprieve
wipes off only the penalty, not the crime. In the past, Ieng Sary was condemned,
by a court ruled by Vietnam. Even though this trial is considered valid, it covered
only a period from 1975 to 1979. After 1979 until recently, the Khmer Rouge continued
their crimes in Cambodia: massacres at Phnom Vour, Kampot, Battambang, Anlong Veng,
Ieng Sary has to be tried again and to be kept in custody, in order to stop him from
continuing his deeds and to allow the judiciary to question him. When his case is
clarified, the court can sentence him according to all his behavior, with aggravating
or extenuating circumstances. Once his penalty is passed, the convict will be returned
to custody from where he can ask for a reprieve by arguing that he is repentant.
According to legal procedures, he could be summoned by his victims to answer his
civil responsibility, and has to meet any lawsuit by giving up his Khmer Rouge funds.
After clearing up this situation, he can be granted a reprieve and be returned to
civil life without prejudice to civic incapacity, like ineligibility to carry out
Any amnesty or reprieve which fails to follow the above procedure is invalid, null
and void and grossly violates human and citizen rights.
- Douc Rasy, Ligue Cambodgienne des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen (LCDHC).