Life Update: The Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Stanford interns at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

History of the Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge, or “Red Khmer,” was a radical communist group that ruled Cambodia as Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979. It was a particularly brutal and violent regime, and an estimated 2 million Cambodians died due to starvation, overwork, or violence. The Khmer Rouge wanted to transform Cambodia into a rural, classless society; they believed for the communist revolution to be successful the country needed to begin again at “Year Zero”. They abolished money, free markets, private property, religious practices and traditional culture and specifically targeted “intellectuals” (anyone who was educated, spoke a foreign language, or even wore glasses). In addition, monks were forcibly disrobed; the Cham, ethnic Vietnamese, and other minorities were targeted; and Khmer Rouge members who were suspected of being traitors were purged.

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S-21, or Tuol Sleng Prison, was the largest security center in the country, reserved for the most important prisoners. Security officials at detention centers were not given a reason as to why prisoners were sent to them. Instead, prisoners were expected to write their own confessions under torture. Many of these confessions were likely false, but coerced confessions of attempted coup d’etats fueled the paranoia of Pol Pot and other leaders.
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In order to keep the detention facilities secret, victims at S-21 were driven at night to the Choueng Ek Killing Fields, were they were killed and buried in mass graves.

Major Leaders of the Khmer Rouge

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Pol Pot, alias Brother Number One. General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Died in 1998, therefore could not be charged at the ECCC.
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Nuon Chea, alias Brother Number Two. Former Chairman of the Democratic Kampuchea National Assembly and Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva conventions and murder, torture and religious persecution under Cambodian law. Convicted in Case 002/01, currently on trial in Case 002/02.
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Khieu Sampan, alias Hem. Former head of state of Democratic Kampuchea. Charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva conventions and murder, torture and religious persecution under Cambodian law. Convicted in Case 002/01, currently on trial in Case 002/02.
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Ieng Sary, alias Van. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Democratic Kampuchea. Charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva conventions and murder, torture and religious persecution under Cambodian law. Died before Case 002 finished.
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Ieng Thirith, alias Phea. Former Minister of Social Action of Democratic Kampuchea and wife of Ieng Sary. Charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva conventions and murder, torture and religious persecution under Cambodian law. Ruled unfit to stand trial due to dementia.
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Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch. Former Chairman of S-21. Convicted of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva conventions by the Trial Chamber on 26 July 2010 in Case 001. Sentenced to life in prison on appeal.

History of the ECCC

The ECCC is not the first court to try leaders of the Khmer Rouge; however, the previous Tribunals have mostly been political or show trials. In 1979, the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal found Pol Pot and Ieng Sary guilt of genocide (although neither of them showed up in court nor served a sentence.) In 1997, the Khmer Rouge themselves tried Pol Pot for crimes committed in the organization after 1979. Pol Pot died in 1998, still in exile in the jungle.

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Credit: The Leitner Center report, “International Criminal Tribunals: A Visual Overview”

What Alina Does At Work All Day

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Nuon Chea has not appeared in court since I have arrived due to back pain. Instead, he sits in the holding cell downstairs where he can listen to the trial remotely. Apparently his holding cell and the media room share a wall (although I’ve been assured its soundproofed).

PhD’ing in Politics and International Studies at Cambridge via Queen's University Belfast via Stanford. www.alinautrata.com

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