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Two Khmer Rouge leaders found guilty of genocide

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The last surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge that brutally ruled Cambodia have been convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by an international tribunal.

Nuon Chea, 92, and Khieu Samphan, 87, are the first Khmer Rouge officials to be found guilty of genocide and have been sentenced to life in prison.

They are already serving life terms after earlier convictions at a previous trial for crimes against humanity connected with forced the transfers and mass disappearances of people.

The two have suggested they were targets of political persecution.

Almost a quarter of the Cambodian population – roughly between 1.7 and 2.2 million people – are estimated to have died during Pol Pot’s reign of terror between 1975 and 1979.

The Khmer Rouge sought to achieve a communist agrarian utopia by emptying the cities to establish vast rural communes.

Instead their radical policies led to what has been termed “auto-genocide” through starvation, forced labour and execution. Pol Pot died in 1998.

The verdict read aloud in the courtroom by Judge Nil Nonn established that the Khmer Rouge committed genocide against the Vietnamese and Cham minorities during the regime.

Scholars had debated whether suppression of the Chams, a Muslim ethnic group whose members had put up a small but futile resistance against the Khmer Rouge, amounted to genocide.

The court found Khieu Samphan not guilty of genocide against the Chams, for lack of evidence, though he was found guilty of genocide against the Vietnamese under the principle of joint command responsibility.

The crimes against humanity convictions covered activities at work camps and cooperatives that were established by the Khmer Rouge.

They included murder, extermination, deportation, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, persecution on political, religious and racial grounds, forced marriages and rape.

(c) Sky News 2018: Two Khmer Rouge leaders found guilty of genocide