Friday, September 23, 2011

War crimes court splits KRouge trial charges

Four former Khmer Rouge leaders on trial for genocide in Cambodia will first face charges of crimes against humanity after a UN-backed court on Thursday announced a plan to separate the prosecution process.
This handout photo taken and released by the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on August 31, 2011 shows former Khmer Rouge leader "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea in the courtroom. Four former Khmer Rouge leaders on trial for genocide in Cambodia will first face charges of crimes against humanity after a UN-backed court announced a plan to separate the prosecution process.
The trial, long awaited by survivors of the brutal regime, will be divided into smaller sections, beginning with the forced movement of population and the related charges of crimes against humanity, the court said.
The elderly defendants, including "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan, face a range of charges over the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork, torture or execution during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 reign of terror.
Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said the division of the "extremely complex" case is "to speed up the proceedings".
In a statement the court said trials of similar complexity had occasionally taken up to ten years to reach verdicts.
It said allegations of "genocide, persecution on religious grounds as a crime against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 have also been deferred to later phases of the proceedings" but did not specify when these will be heard.
Observers and survivors have long raised fears about the speed of proceedings and the advanced age of the four accused.
"We are racing against time and I hope the court can catch their crimes while they are still alive," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which researches Khmer Rouge atrocities.
The trial officially opened in June but has been held up by health issues surrounding the defendants.
Last month a medical assessment of Ieng Thirith, the 79-year-old former social affairs minister, found she had dementia and memory loss.
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