Cambodian court upholds life terms for two Khmer Rouge leaders

A top Cambodian court on Wednesday upheld the life sentences for the two most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime, which is responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people, saying that the massive scale of the crimes showed the two men’s complete lack of consideration for the lives of the Cambodians. The Supreme Court Chamber said the 2014 verdict by a U.N.-assisted Khmer Rouge tribunal was “appropriate” given the gravity of the crimes and roles of the two defendants — Khieu Samphan, the 85-year-old Khmer Rouge head of state, and Nuon Chea, the 90-year-old right-hand man to the communist group’s late leader Pol Pot. The two men, who were sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, sat impassively as the lengthy verdict was read out. They were detained in 2007 and started serving their sentences in 2014.

The gravity of the crimes should be reflected in the sentence … the crimes were not isolated events but occurred over an extended period of time.

Kong Srim, president of the Supreme Court Chamber

Given the “significant role of the accused, the Supreme Court Chamber considers that the imposition of the life sentence for each of the accused is appropriate and therefore confirms the sentence imposed by the trial chamber,” he said, as he wrapped up a two-hour reading of the verdict. He added that the “massive scale of the crimes” showed a complete lack of consideration for the “ultimate fate of the Cambodian population, especially the most vulnerable group.”