Prosecutors for the UN-supported Khmer Rouge tribunal forwarded the names of five suspects to investigators Wednesday, in the first major step for the tribunal since it began.
The names were not made public in order to maintain integrity in the trial process, according to a tribunal statement, but the "introductory submission" was seen as a positive step in the tribunal's arduous journey. It's the first action by a court against specific Khmer Rouge leaders for specific crimes committed in the 1970s.
The crimes under review were committed between April 17, 1975 and Jan. 6, 1979, under the Democratic Kampuchea regime, the period within the jurisdiction of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC, as the tribunal is officially called.
Prosecutors found 25 "distinct factual situations of murder, torture, forcible transfer, unlawful detention, forced labor and religious, political and ethnic persecution as evidence of the crimes committed in the execution of this common criminal plan," the ECCC said in a statement.
The charges include those linked to "crimes against humanity, genocide, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, homicide, torture and religious persecution," the ECCC said.
The five unnamed suspects "committed, aided, abetted and/or bore superior responsibility for those crimes," the ECCC said, and were "senior leaders" of the Khmer Rouge or "those most responsible" for the crimes.
"These crimes were committed as part of a common criminal plan constituting a systematic and unlawful denial of basic rights of the Cambodian population and the targeted persecution of specific groups," the ECCC said. "The purported motive of this common criminal plan was to effect a radical change of Cambodian society along ideological lines. Those responsible for these crimes and policies included senior leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea regime."
The "factual submission" was accompanied by more than 14,000 pages of documentation, including statements from hundreds of witnesses, thousands of written records, and information from 40 mass graves.