The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s highest court will issue a final verdict against former regime leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan on Wednesday after they appealed a life sentence handed down in 2014.
The case, Case 002/01, is the first of at least two against Chea, then deputy leader of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Samphan, who was the regime’s head of state.
They were found guilty of crimes against humanity during the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975 and subsequent forced transfer from other urban areas to the countryside, as well as ordering the execution of Khmer Republic soldiers.
Lawyers representing civil parties at the court, such as Hong Kim Suon, urged the court to apply the sentence.
“The goal of the victims … is to see a serious conviction which is appropriate to the actions of top leaders of the Khmer Rouge era and their associates,” Kim Suon said.
“It should be appropriate to the suffering of millions of people.”
He added that the victims also wanted to hear the convicts go further than expressing regret to explaining why they had denied the atrocities that “caused Cambodia to fall into hell”.
Latt Ky of local rights group Adhoc, echoed Kim Suon’s remarks. “They must repay the damage. That is the demand of the victims that we work with,” he said.
Kong Sam On, Samphan’s lawyer, said the court was likely to uphold the guilty verdict, adding that the trial in the next case against his client, 002/02, would “not be meaningful” if he had already been sentenced for another crime by the court.
He claimed that the defense had faced a litany of problems, including being blocked from calling witnesses because they were members of the current government.
“So where is the justice? Because if we seek justice, we have to look everywhere,” he added.
Neth Pheaktra, tribunal spokesman, said “all parties have an equal right in front of the law”.
The tribunal has so far spent about $260 million on cases against the Khmer Rouge’s top leaders since 2006.
However, thus far only one official, Kaing Kek Eav, who oversaw the deaths of more than 12,000 people as the head of the S-21 security center in Phnom Penh, received a life sentence for his crimes.