Cambodian prosecutors on Monday demanded life imprisonment for two elderly Khmer Rouge leaders on trial for war crimes, saying the two had shown no remorse and refused to cooperate with the tribunal.
The call came at the end of three days of closing arguments in the U.N.-backed court against “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and ex-head of state Khieu Samphan, who are accused of playing a leading role in the communist regime's reign of terror in the late 1970s that left up to 2 million people dead.
The two men, both in their eighties, are charged with genocide, religious persecution, homicide, torture, and other offenses.
In an impassioned plea to the tribunal, prosecutor Chea Leang said life imprisonment—the maximum possible punishment in Cambodia, which has no death penalty—was “the only punishment they deserve.”
“Today, on behalf of the Cambodian people and the international community, what we want is justice given by judges to the victims who died and those who survived the regime under the leadership of the two accused,” she said.
The accused “didn’t express any remorse for those crimes … and they didn’t cooperate with the court to reveal the truth,” she said.
Khieu Samphan (left) speaks to his lawyer in the ECCC courtroom in Phnom Penh on Oct. 16, 2013. Photo credit: AFP Photo / ECCC / Mark Peters.
Closing statements from the defense are scheduled to be completed by the end of the month, with a verdict expected in the first half of next year.
While giving testimony in May, 87-year-old Nuon Chea, the chief ideologue in the Khmer Rouge regime, accepted responsibility for deaths of millions and offered an apology to families of the victims, but stopped short of saying he regretted his actions.
Both he and Khieu Samphan, 82, have been hospitalized over health issues in recent years.
The trial for the two—known as Case 002— began in 2011 along with co-defendants Ieng Sary—the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister—and his wife, Ieng Thirith, who had worked as the movement’s social affairs minister.
Ieng Thirith was declared unfit to stand trial last year due to Alzheimer’s disease and Ieng Sary died in March, prompting calls to speed up proceedings for the remaining two defendants. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998.
Critics of the tribunal —known formally as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)—say that a trial process slowed by inefficiency, corruption, and resistance from the Cambodian government may never see the elderly defendants brought to justice.
The ECCC was established in 2005, but to date has only delivered one verdict—a life sentence given to Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who oversaw Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh where as many as 14,000 people are believed to have been executed.
Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.