ECCC

ECCC

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) was established in 2001 in response to the allegations of “atrocity crimes” committed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. The Cambodian government sought the assistance of the United Nations to bring perpetrators to justice, thus forming a hybrid tribunal that utilized both domestic and international law. The tribunal operates in Cambodia, though independently of both the Cambodian government and the United Nations. It is a domestic court with Cambodian legal proceedings, the ECCC is comprised of both Cambodian and international lawyers and judges who work to enforce domestic and international laws.

ECCC justices

The ECCC’s jurisdiction is limited to Cambodian atrocity crimes committed between April 17, 1975, and January 6, 1979. The court agreed to try senior leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea and “those believed to be most responsible grave violations of national and international law.” Under Cambodian law, the ECCC jurisdiction includes cases of murder, torture, and religious persecution. Jurisdiction under international law extends to crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva conventions, destruction of cultural property, and crimes against internationally-protected persons.

The first investigation began in 2007 and, thus far, a total of nine individuals have been accused:

Kaing Guek Eav

The first case completed at the ECCC was that of Kaing Guek Eav, known as “Comrade Duch” during his administration of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison and the Santebal, a special branch of internal security for the Khmer Rouge. He was indicted on July 31, 2007, and went to trial on September 17, 2009.  The indictment contained multiple counts of violations of Cambodian law, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The trial concluded on November 27, 2010. Kaing Guek Eav was convicted on all counts on July 26, 2010, and sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. On February 3, 2012, the Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC overturned the thirty-five-year sentence in favor of life imprisonment. The decision handed down was final and can’t be appealed.

 

Noun Chea

Nuon Chea

Nuon Chea was Deputy Secretary to Pol Pot, and in charge of Phnom Penh’s S-21 torture and interrogation center. He is the highest-ranking official of the Khmer Rouge to be tried, ranking second only to Pol Pot, and is alleged to have played a crucial role in the genocide during his tenure. He was indicted on multiple counts of violation of Cambodian law, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide on September 15, 2010. Hearings began on June 27, 2011. He denied all charges but was ultimately convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of his life. He appealed the verdict, but his life sentence was upheld in November of 2016. Chea was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity in a separate trial that concluded on June 23, 2017. The judgment is expected in 2018.

 

Khiev Samphon

Khieu Samphan‘s trial began June 27, 2011. Samphan was a high-ranking official and eventually succeeded Pol Pot as leader of the Khmer Rouge in 1987. Samphan was indicted together with Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, and Ieng  Thirith on September 15, 2010 on multiple counts of violation of Cambodian law, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. He was given a life sentence. He appealed the verdict, but his life sentence was upheld in November of 2016. Samphan was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity in a separate trial that concluded on June 23, 3017. The judgment is expected in 2018. Comrade Duch, Nuon Chea, and Khieu Samphan are the only perpetrators of the genocide to receive guilty verdicts thus far.

 

Ieng Sary

Ieng Sary

Ieng Sary, the Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs for the Khmer Rouge, was also indicted on September 15, 2010. Ieng is alleged to have been involved with planning and execution of the extermination plans of the government and is charged with multiple counts of violations of Cambodian law, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. His trial also began on June 27, 2011. The proceedings against Ieng Sary died on March 14, 2013, and the proceedings against him were terminated.

 

Ieng Thirith

Ieng Thirith, the highest ranking woman in the Khmer Rouge, was the Minister of Social Affairs. The wife of Ieng Sary and sister-in-law of Pol Pot, Ieng Thirith was indicted of multiple counts of violation of Cambodian law, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide on September 15, 2010. Proceedings against Ieng Thirith were suspended and she was conditionally released on September 16, 2012, based on expert testimony that Ieng suffers from dementia, likely Alzheimer’s disease, and is not competent to stand trial. Victims groups have protested the decision to release Ieng. She passed away on August 22, 2015.

In February 2017, the court ruled Im Chaem, a former Khmer Rouge district secretary and aid to Ta Mok, known as “The Butcher,” was outside the court’s jurisdiction because she was not considered one of the “most responsible.” The ECCC dismissed all charges against Chaem, even though 40,000 people were killed in one of the security centers in her district, and the court determined she “had the authority to order executions.”

Chaem’s case, and current cases against Khmer Rouge members Yim Tith, Meas Muth, and Ao An have been highly opposed by the government. Prime Minister Hun Sen went so far as to warn of civil war breaking out if the cases go to trial. Investigations into Yim Tith, Meas Muth, and Ao An were completed in 2017, but it is unclear whether the court will bring charges.

For more information, visit www.eccc.gov.kh/en.

This page was written jointly by Christie Nicoson, Former Program and Operations Coordinator, Lisa Dailey, Former News Associate, and Rachel Hall Beecroft, Former Program and Operations Coordinator. This page was updated January 2018.

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