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‘No proof of genocide’: defence

Khmer Rouge tribunal International Co-Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian (right) and his deputy, William Smith, during closing statements in Case 002/02 last week at the ECCC.
Khmer Rouge tribunal International Co-Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian (right) and his deputy, William Smith, during closing statements in Case 002/02 last week at the ECCC. ECCC

‘No proof of genocide’: defence

There was “no proof of genocide” committed during the Khmer Rouge regime, lawyers for former leader Khieu Samphan said yesterday, while blaming the invading Vietnamese for wielding the loaded term as a political tool, in the final day of defence statements in Case 002/02.

Former head of state Samphan and his co-accused, Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, are charged with a rash of crimes against humanity, including genocide, but Samphan defender Anta Guisse yesterday urged judges to acquit her client in her closing arguments.

“I think it’s very important to look at the word genocide and how it was used [by the Vietnamese],” she said.

“They’re not talking about genocide against the Vietnamese, they’re not talking about genocide against the Cham, they’re talking about genocide against the Khmer people . . . it was war propaganda.”

Charges of genocide apply in the case only to Cham Muslim people and to Vietnamese people in the provinces of Svay Rieng and Prey Veng. Guisse said that if the Vietnamese had indeed been targeted, logically they would have emphasised that in their rhetoric.

“That is the crime of all crimes . . . it’s horror beyond horror,” she said.

“If genocide against the Vietnamese was flagrant and so significant, why did the Vietnamese – who should have used this in their propaganda at the time – why are they not talking about [genocide] against the Vietnamese, why are they talking about genocide against the Khmer people?”

Guisse also said a “vicious cycle” occurred when the prosecution relied too heavily on their “favourite author” Ben Kiernan – whose books have low probative value as he was not cross-examined in court – and on expert Alexander Hinton, who she said often cited Kiernan and spoke of genocide against the Khmer people, or “self-genocide”.

She argued the Cham were treated just like Khmer citizens during the regime, and those who were killed were subversive elements, pointing to one witness who said “those who participated in the rebellion were eliminated, not the Cham”.

She added the prosecution was at pains to place Samphan at certain sites or in a decision-making position. She said what appeared to be rock-solid assertions in written records of interview often fell apart when the witness gave in-court testimony, as it was ultimately based on hearsay.

Guisse slammed the prosecution’s characterisation of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan as “the gang of three” – which she said was a “sexy title” more suited to an action film than a court of law. She said it was wrong to depict her client at the centre of power.

Samphan’s last defence follows Chea’s two days of closing statements. While Samphan’s lawyers chose to dissect the legal intricacies of the case as their defence, Chea’s approach was to “re-write history”, Civil Party lawyer Marie Guiraud said.

Co-Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian said it was a fallacy to believe that “if you decide to destroy a group, if you do it for reasons of security to your nation, that’s not genocide”.

“That’s not the case,” he said, highlighting that Vietnamese babies – an unlikely security threat to the state – were slaughtered. Regardless of the motivations, “if the intent is to destroy the group, that is genocide”, he said.

He said security centres were “killing machines” and a pattern of forced marriages qualified as an “inhumane act” as it “left scars that last a lifetime”.

Both defendants had attempted to justify the crimes of the regime, but Nuon Chea had done so more vehemently, Koumjian argued. When he did express condolences to his victims, this was overshadowed by his excuses.

“Those are crocodile tears – absolutely insincere – because as he has said, he makes no apology for S-21,” he said, referring to the Khmer Rouge’s torture prison in Phnom Penh.

“The accused are not here because of politics or economic theory ... they are here because of the suffering, the deaths, inflicted on the Cambodian people.”

The prosecution’s rebuttal continues today.

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