PHNOM PENH & WASHINGTON DC - Defense lawyers for Nuon Chea on Tuesday rejected accusations that the aging leader was responsible for atrocity crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge under his leadership.
During closing arguments at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, Nuon Chea’s lawyers told the court that experts and other witnesses were not “confident” in their testimonies and that he had not been responsible for the armed forces.
Prosecutors said earlier this week that Nuon Chea, the chief ideologue of the regime, and Khieu Samphan, its nominal head of state, had created a “slave state” within Cambodia and were responsible for atrocity crimes that led to the deaths of more than 1.7 million people.
Victor Coppe, international defense lawyer, said the court should view decisions made by Nuon Chea in the “larger context” of the time.
“Nuon Chea did not intend to create a slave state,” he said.
Coppe also said that members of the current government, including key leaders of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, had failed to appear in court.
Prosecutors have asked for life sentences for both men.
However, survivors of the regime disagree on whether life sentences would be enough.
Sum Rithy, who survived imprisonment by the regime in Siem Reap province, told VOA Khmer that the case against the two men had not revealed enough truth about the regime so far.
That’s because the case, No. 002, against the men was broken into smaller parts, with the first section—to try them for their roles in the mass evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975—the only one completed so far, he said.
“Does the case end here?” Sum Rithy asked. “Or will Case 002 continue?”
Chum Mey, one of a handful of survivors of the torture center of Tuol Sleng, told VOA Khmer he wants tribunal judges to follow the advisement of the prosecutors for both defendants. Tough sentencing would be a message to future generations, he said.
“I appeal to the judges to sentence them to life,” he said. “Then I am happy.”