Atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime occurred at the instigation of former head of state Khieu Samphan, who offered direction and support for policies of extermination and persecution, tribunal co-prosecutors have alleged.
In a detention order made public Wednesday, the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s co-investigating judges also said Khieu Samphan had “real authority” and that there were “well-founded reasons” to believe he had provided an ideological environment for Khmer Rouge crimes.
“Through his acts, notably his speeches, the political training he conducted, his public approbation of the regime’s policy, and his denial in international forums of the crimes being committed…Khieu Samphan facilitated and legitimated, at the highest level, the continued perpetration of criminal acts throughout Cambodia,” Co-Investigating Judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde wrote.
Khieu Samphan has denied the charges and claimed that under Democratic Kampuchea “he held no effective power,” according to the ruling dated Monday.
In ordering his detention for up to one year ahead of trial, the judges charged Khieu Samphan with both war crimes and crimes against humanity; meaning both charges now weigh against all of the tribunal’s current detainees except former Minister of Social Action Ieng Thirith, who has not been accused of war crimes.
Co-prosecutors have alleged in several cases that suspects exercised direct control over the state apparatus and planned or ordered crimes. However the terms of Monday’s order depict Khieu Samphan as the author of an enabling ideology.
“They have very well understood the situation of a communist regime,” historian Henri Locard said Wednesday of the order.
“In this sort of regime, there are those who execute orders. Then there are those who define policies,” he said. “And then at last above this there are people who give meaning to this policy, and I think Khieu Samphan played a central role in defining ideology,” Locard said.
In a lengthy adversarial hearing before the co-investigating judges on Monday, Khieu Samphan said the co-prosecutors only listed the positions he held in Democratic Kampuchea, “which cannot suffice to justify the charges,” according to the order.
Khieu Samphan said that as chairman of the State Presidium he only had “a representative role, comparative to that of the King in the current regime.”
He also said that as a member of the Khmer Rouge’s “Office 870,” a controlling political nucleus also known simply as “the Center,” he knew nothing of the responsibilities of others.
He also asked to be released.
Lawyers for the defense on Tuesday announced their intention to challenge the detention order.
However the ECCC’s co-investigating judges ruled that with access to his case file, Khieu Samphan would know the identity of witnesses and could attempt to put pressure on them. As with other defendants, the judges also found it necessary to detain Khieu Samphan to preserve public order and protect his safety.
Locard, author of the 2000 book “Pol Pot’s Little Red Book: the sayings of Angkar,” said Monday that the effect of Khieu Samphan’s ideology had been more than abstract.
The regime had taken its particular shape due in part to the ideas of Khieu Samphan, who made remarks to this effect in a 2003 interview with Locard in Pailin.
“I questioned him for an entire day,” Locard said.
“One of the reasons [Khieu Samphan gave] for the forced march to communism was to catch up with the Vietnamese and double their advance so that they wouldn’t control the revolution.”
“He was a true communist,” Locard said.