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Cambodia’s last genocide case stands dismissed

The freeing of Yim Tith who served under Pol Pot ends further prosecutions of Khmer Rouge leaders
Cambodia’s last genocide case stands dismissed

Tourists look at portrait photos of the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime displayed at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Oct. 15, 2014. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 04, 2022 08:39 AM GMT
Updated: January 04, 2022 08:45 AM GMT

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has dismissed charges of genocide brought against Yim Tith, a former mid-level commander who served under Pol Pot and is now a successful businessman.

Yim Tith was also charged with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and violations of the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code.

A brief statement from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) said the Supreme Court Chamber decided on Dec. 28 to terminate Case 004 against Yim Tith in the absence of an enforceable indictment.

National and international co-investigating judges then unanimously ordered Case 004 to be archived on Dec. 29, ending an eight-year battle by court investigators.

Yim Tith rose to power after the Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh in April 1975 and was believed to be behind crimes committed by its cadres.

The decision in his case was not unexpected with the ECCC winding down its 16-year operation targeting surviving senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, blamed for the deaths of about two million people between 1975 and 1979 when Pol Pot ruled Cambodia with an iron fist.

The ECCC has been dogged by controversy from the start and there was significant political opposition to proceeding with charges against Meas Muth and Yim Tith

It was also made just 10 days after the Supreme Court Chamber reached a similar decision in regards to Meas Muth, a former naval commander, blamed for seizing foreign sailors plying the waters in the Gulf of Siam.  

Australians, New Zealanders and Americans among them were all sent to their deaths.

The latest dismissal formally ends any further prosecutions at the ECCC, which now has just one verdict left to consider, an appeal from the defense for former Khmer Rouge official Khieu Samphan against his genocide conviction.

Khieu Samphan, a former head of state, is the last surviving senior member of the Khmer Rouge. Even if his appeal is successful, he will remain behind bars for the rest of his life after the appeals process was exhausted for his 2014 conviction for crimes against humanity.

“The tribunal is nearing its end,” said one seasoned observer who declined to be named.

“Results have been mixed. The ECCC has been dogged by controversy from the start and there was significant political opposition to proceeding with charges against Meas Muth and Yim Tith. Still, the justice served was better than no justice at all.”

Convictions were also secured against Brother Number Two Nuon Chea and Kaing Guek Eav, who was better known as Duch for his ruthless administration of the S21 death camp where 24,000 people were processed for extermination in the Killing Fields.

The court heard there were 196 such camps across the country.

Others including the Khmer Rouge army commander Ta Mok and Pol Pot’s foreign minister Ieng Sary died before justice could be delivered. His wife Ieng Tirith was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial and has also passed away.

Pol Pot died in 1998 when Cambodia’s 30-year civil war came to an end, paving the way for the establishment of the ECCC. In November, King Norodom Sihamoni signed off on legislation that will enable the United Nations-backed ECCC to finalize its mission within the next three years.

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