11/23/2016, 11.16
CAMBODIA

Phnom Penh, the UN court confirms life sentence for two former Khmer Rouge leaders

The judges reject appeal filed by the lawyers of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, convicted of crimes against humanity. Both will face a second trial for genocide. Rejected the requests related to procedural flaws and lack of impartiality of the first instance. Tribunal President: life imprisonment "is a just punishment."

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - This morning the United Nations sponsored tribunal - that judges crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 70s - has confirmed the life sentence given at first instance against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

The two leaders of the bloody Maoist movement, which in less than a decade killed a quarter of the population (about two million people), are guilty of crimes against humanity. Both face a second trial for genocide.

Nuon Chea, 90, better known as "Brother Number Two" and right-hand man of Pol Pot, is considered the ideologue of the regime.  85 year old Khieu Samphan, who held the post of head of state, represented the public face. According to the indictment, they developed the movement's policy and were accomplices in the brutalities committed over the years - from 1975 to 1979 - in power.

The confirmation on appeal of life imprisonment is a severe blow to the hopes nourished so far by the two senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Both appealed against the first instance verdict, accusing the court of procedural errors and lack of impartiality of the judges, some of whom would have suffered the violence of the regime firsthand.

After months of hearings, this morning the court issued the ruling on appeal, confirming the sentences  of life imprisonment, while recognizing some procedural irregularities occurred in the past.

For the president of the tribunal Kong Srim the two defendants have shown "a complete lack of concern" about the fate of the Cambodian population. He also defined the scope of their crimes "impressive". "Life imprisonment - concluded the judge - is the right sentence for both accused."

The Special Court of Cambodia (known by the acronym ECCC) is a mixed court, made up of local and international judges, which has its headquarters outside the capital Phnom Penh. It combines elements of Cambodian and international law. In the past it has been the subject of controversy on charges of corruption, inefficiencies and delays in the processes and decisions, as evidenced by the story of "Comrade Duch".

The (few) convictions of these years are seen as a feeble attempt to heal the wounds inflicted by the bloody Maoist movement and restore justice to the victims. However, critics point out that the UN Court struck only part of the symbols of the regime, but did not ensure true justice to the Cambodian people.

Pol Pot died in 1998 due to illness and was never subject to trials or indictments for the atrocities committed under his command. In addition, many of the old officials of the second floor and old cadres of the Maoist movement are still free today and in many cases hold leading roles in the government.

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