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Pol Pot's last henchman appeals against genocide conviction

Lawyers for Khieu Samphan argue 'selective approach' has violated tribunal's own rules

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: August 17, 2021 08:36 AM GMT

Updated: August 17, 2021 09:36 AM GMT

Pol Pot's last henchman appeals against genocide conviction

Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan in the dock in Phnom Penh on Aug. 16 during his appeal against life imprisonment for his role in the genocide committed by the regime. (Photo: AFP)

Lawyers for Khieu Samphan, 90, the former head of state under the Khmer Rouge, have claimed that his UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh had adopted a “selective approach” to evidence that led to his conviction for genocide in 2018.

Defense lawyer Kong Sam Onn asked the upper court to overturn the Trial Chamber’s decision, saying the chamber had failed to deliver a written and reasoned verdict on time, which could amount to a “violation” of the tribunal’s own rules.

“When the judges themselves disrespect their own internal rules, that’s the end and that will result in the failure of the legal sector due to the arbitrary actions in absence of rule of law and confidence in the judicial system,” Sam Onn said.

“The verdict sentencing Khieu Samphan has no legal effect and should be annulled.”

However, the prosecution dismissed the claims, saying their arguments did not justify overturning his conviction for genocide under the Khmer Rouge, who ruled Cambodia with an iron fist between 1975 and early 1979.

“Defendant Khieu Samphan has failed to prove that the Trial Chamber was not impartial,” co-prosecutor Chea Leang said.

About two million people, a third of Cambodia’s population, perished under the ultra-radical regime

“He cannot prove that the Trial Chamber violated his right to a fair trial. There is a huge pile of evidence supporting the sentence against him. That evidence produced just one story with just one ending. The only possible conclusion is that he is guilty of these crimes.”

The appeal is part of the last public hearings at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), which are expected to last until the end of the week when Khieu Samphan, the last surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge, is expected to deliver an oral defense.

Khieu Samphan was the polite, public face of the Khmer Rouge, who were ousted from power following a Vietnamese invasion but maintained a civil war until 1998. It was only then that efforts to try senior leaders began in earnest and the ECCC was sworn in in 2006.

About two million people, a third of Cambodia’s population, perished under the ultra-radical regime.

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He was put on trial alongside "Brother Number 2" Nuon Chea, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, and Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch, the former commandant of the dreaded S21 torture and extermination camp.

In 2014, Khieu Samphan was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life. The appeals process in that trial has been exhausted, which means he will remain behind bars even if his conviction for genocide is overturned.

Duch and Nuon Chea both died while serving life sentences for crimes against humanity while Ieng Sary died before his trial was completed. Ieng Thirith was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial and has also passed away. Pol Pot died in 1998.

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