Court finds Khmer Rouge leaders guilty of genocide

Tribunal to decide genocide, other verdicts over Khmer Rouge

Nuon Chea, who was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, is seen on screen at the court's press center at the United Nations -backed war crimes tribunal on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.

Both parties were sentenced to "life in prison", merging the two sentences into a single term, Nil Nonn said.

The court found that during their rule, the Khmer Rouge had a policy to target Cham and Vietnamese people to create "an atheistic and homogenous society without class divisions", Judge Nil Nonn said in the verdict.

The defendants were previously handed life sentences in 2014 over the violent and forced evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975, but Friday's ruling was the first to acknowledge a genocide.

"Today's verdict hopefully brings some measure of justice to the victims, 40 years after the unspeakable mass atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia", said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International's regional director for East and Southeast Asia.

"He continued: "[The Cham] were dispersed and scattered among Khmer villages for their communities to be broken up and fully assimilated into the Cambodian population.

Hundreds of Vietnamese civilians and soldiers were killed at the S-21 interrogation centre, at a converted Phnom Penh school called Tuol Sleng, after being tortured to admit being spies.

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"The fate of these prisoners was a foregone conclusion as they were all ultimately subject to execution".

One of the spectators at Friday's hearing was 65-year-old Sum Rithy, who said he had been jailed for almost two years under the Khmer Rouge, who accused him of being a spy for the Central Intelligence Agency. The communist movement's deputy leader and its former head of state have been sentenced to life in prison.

'(The verdict) will affirm the collective humanity of the victims and give recognition to the terrible suffering, ' said Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia - a research organisation that has provided the court with evidence. Pol Pot died in 1998.

The number of allegations against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan was so vast the court split the trials into a series of smaller hearings in 2011.

"It will affirm the collective humanity of the victims and give recognition to the terrible suffering that they suffered", Youk Chhang said.

It's been nearly four decades since the Khmer Rouge were in power in Cambodia, reigning with a ruthlessness that left as many as 1.7 million people dead.

The court, which has been plagued by political interference, is not expected to hear any more cases. Hun Sen was a Khmer Rouge commander who defected when the group was in power and was installed in government after the Khmer Rouge were ousted from power by a Vietnamese invasion.

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