Last Surviving Khmer Rouge member appeals life sentence

The last living leader from the inner circle of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime launched his courtroom appeal Monday, seeking to convince a long-running international tribunal to overturn his conviction on charges of genocide.

Khieu Samphan, 90, was the former head of state for the Khmer Rouge, the radical communist regime that ruled Cambodia with an iron fist from 1975-1979 and was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people. His defense team is seeking to overturn a 2018 verdict finding him guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, questioning the evidence and arguing there were procedural mistakes.

Kong Sam Onn told the judges of the Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC, that his client had been given inadequate time to prepare an initial defense, and that the original panel failed to provide the grounds for its ruling in a timely fashion, among other things. 

“It should be null and void, and so I am requesting the Supreme Court chamber to … reverse the judgment,” he said. Khieu Samphan sat in a chair behind his attorneys, appearing to listen intently as they addressed the court. Kong Sam Onn said his client would address the chamber at the end of the four days of hearings. 

In 2006, the ECCC was established by the U.N. and the Cambodian government to try senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge and “those most responsible” for crimes committed between 1975 and 1979. In November 2018, the ECCC convicted Khieu Samphan of genocide and a litany of other crimes, including forced marriages and rape, along with the regime’s “Brother Number 2” Nuon Chea.

Both men were jailed for life, Chea died in 2019, leaving Samphan the sole surviving Khmer Rouge leader to challenge the genocide ruling. Samphan and Chea were previously handed life sentences by the tribunal in August 2014 for crimes against humanity over the violent forced evacuation of Phnom by Khmer Rouge troops shortly after their seizure of the capital. Their life sentences were upheld on appeal in 2016.



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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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