|Khmer Rouge’s ‘chief ideologue’, foreign minister and head of state face charges of crimes against humanity [Reuters]|
A top Khmer Rouge leader on trial at Cambodia’s war crimes court has been confronted with dramatic footage in which he defends the regime’s bloody purges and calls the victims “traitors”.
Prosecutors told the court on Tuesday that the clip from the 2009 documentary “Enemies of the People” showed the 1970s movement had a policy of killing enemies and those it regarded as disloyal.
Nuon Chea, known as “Brother Number Two” and seen as the regime’s chief ideologue, showed no emotion as the short clip of him was shown on the second day of opening statements in the trial at the UN-backed court in Phnom Penh.
“If these traitors were alive, the Khmers as a people would have been finished so I dare to suggest our decision was the right one,” Nuon Chea tells a Cambodian journalist in the clip.
“If we had shown mercy to the people, the nation would have been lost.”
Also on trial are Ieng Sary, the regime’s former foreign minister, and Khieu Samphan, a former head of state. Like Nuon, Ieng, 86, and Khieu, 80, avow innocence.
But Andrew Cayley, the prosecutor, said the trio could not solely blame Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge’s late leader, for the atrocities perpetrated by the regime. Up to two million people are estimated to have been killed between 1975 and the Khmer Rouge’s removal from power by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979.
“To this day, Nuon Chea insists that the people they murdered… were all enemies or traitors,” Cayley said of the mass executions.
“The accused cannot credibly claim they did not know and had no control over the crimes that occurred” when the group ruled what they called Democratic Kampuchea, he said.
Nuon Chea said the accusations against him were false.
“Whatever has been indicated in the opening statements is not true. My position in the revolution was to serve the interest of the nation and the people,” he said.
The long-awaited case, the tribunal’s second and most important, is seen as vital to healing wounds in the still-traumatised nation.
Missing from the courtroom is a fourth accused Khmer Rouge leader, Ieng Thirith, dubbed the regime’s “First Lady” and the only female leader to be charged by the court. Ieng was ruled unfit for trial last week because she has dementia.
Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied cities, abolished money and religion and wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.
Owing to fears that not all of the accused, who are in their 80s and suffer from various medical ailments, will live to see a verdict, the court recently split their complex case into a series of smaller trials.
The UN-backed tribunal, which was established in 2006, has tried just one case, convicting Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, the former head of the regime’s notorious S-21 prison, last July and sentencing him to 35 years in prison for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other offenses.
Cayley said Duch would be a key witness in the case against Nuon Chea and his co-defendants.