The Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday announced it will not try senior Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for more than a dozen allegations that still remain stacked against them in Case 002.
The court’s trial chamber reduced the scope of the case and said there would be no further proceedings on the treatment of Buddhists across the nation, the treatment of the Cham minority at the Kroch Chhmar security centre and crimes committed by the revolutionary army on Vietnamese soil, among others.
Those facts were listed in the closing order which indicted Chea, former Brother Number Two, and Samphan, former head of state but were not addressed in either Case 002/01, in which the pair have already been sentenced, or Case 002/02, which has completed evidentiary hearings.
“The Trial Chamber concluded that conducting a further trial in Case 002 would not be in the interests of a fair, meaningful and expeditious procedure and thus terminated the proceedings concerning the facts set out in the Closing Order in Case 002 which were not included in Case 002/01 or Case 002/02,” a statement from the court read.
The litany of crimes already heard since November 2011 “reasonably reflected the totality of the alleged criminal acts and individual culpability of the Accused”, the statement added.
The exclusion of the remaining allegations comes less than a week after the tribunal’s co-investigating judges threw out the case against Case 004/01 suspect alleged district chief Im Chaem, saying she didn’t fall under its jurisdiction.
Some 446 civil parties – officially recognised victims of the regime – had lodged applications relating to the outstanding crimes in Case 002, though the trial chamber ruled this a “clear minority” out of a total 3,800.
“In an ideal and perfect judicial world, each civil party would be entitled to the adjudication of the complete spectrum of crimes that led to their suffering,” said Civil Party co-lawyer Marie Guiraud in an email.
However, she noted, the lengthy proceedings, the death of 200 civil parties and the fact many were victims of crimes already heard in the case, were significant factors.
She said the final 002/01 judgement issued last year against Chea and Samphan, which upheld the pair’s life imprisonment, found they “contributed to a revolutionary project that was criminal in essence and touched each and every civil party in case 002”.
“We believe that each civil party, including the ones who legitimately feel frustrated today, could find some relief in that verdict,” she said.
Both the prosecution and defence, meanwhile, welcomed the decision.
International co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian said it made “little sense to spend more time and resources” on a third trial for the pair, as all legal charges, including forced marriage, persecution of Buddhists (at Tram Kok), enslavement, genocide of the Vietnamese and Cham, and torture had been covered.
Chea’s defence lawyer Victor Koppe welcomed the decision in an email yesterday, but said National Assembly President Heng Samrin, whom he has attempted to summons multiple times throughout the trial, may have been able to shed light on “what happened with the Cham at Krouch Mar security centre which is now, unfortunately, since today permanently excluded”.
Samphan’s defence team could not be reached late yesterday, but previously said the issue should have been clarified back in 2014. Court observer Long Panhavuth agreed.
“This is ridiculous. I think the court needs to be well prepared, not just [drop civil parties from the case] at the last minute,” he said.
He stressed the court did not operate “in a vacuum” and needed to reach out to the public with its justifications.
Documentation Centre of Cambodia’s Youk Chhang said for many survivors, specific crimes were not as important as an overall sense of justice.
Referring specifically to the charges of crimes against Buddhists, he said, “The Khmer Rouge tried to eliminate the belief in your mind, your spirit. I think that’s why they failed; it’s part of humanity.”