|"Former Cambodian head of state Khieu Samphan, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith and 'Brother Number Two' Nuon Chea went on trial for war crimes on Monday." (Reuters)|
Reuters dispatch on MSNBC.com, June 27, 2011
"Now old and infirm, the four top surviving leaders of Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime went on trial before a UN-backed court for the first time Monday, facing justice three decades after their plan for a communist utopia left an estimated 1.7 million people dead. Security was tight at the tribunal, with dozens of police on guard and 500 spectators -- the majority victims of the 1975-79 regime -- watching from the gallery. With Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot long dead, this may be the nation's best chance to hold the accused architects of the 'killing fields' and the enslavement of millions of Cambodians accountable, though all four say they are innocent. Almost a quarter of Cambodia's population were wiped out under the Khmer Rouge through torture, execution, starvation and exhaustion. On trial Monday were 84-year-old Nuon Chea, who was Pol Pot's No. 2 and the group's chief ideologist; 79-year-old former head of state Khieu Samphan; ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, 85; and his 79-year-old wife, Ieng Thirith, who served as minister for social affairs. The tribunal's chief judge, Nil Nonn, opened the court session. The defendants showed no emotion as opening statements to the UN-backed tribunal were read before a packed auditorium in proceedings screened on national television. The four are charged with committing crimes against humanity and genocide and accused of a litany of crimes under both international and Cambodian laws, including murder, enslavement, religious and political persecution, inhumane treatment and unlawful imprisonment. The four accused sat side by side, without handcuffs. Sem Hoen, who lost four family members at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, queued for several hours for a seat in the courtroom Monday. She said all she wanted was an explanation as to why so many people were killed indiscriminately. 'I want them to confess. People won't stay calm if they don't say what happened,' she said. 'Justice is very important.' Together, the four form what the tribunal calls Case 002. The chief jailer of a notorious Khmer Rouge prison was convicted last year in the breakthrough Case 001. Political and financial pressures on the tribunal are raising doubts over whether there will ever be a Case 003. [...]"