Prosecutors at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday rested their case against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, telling the Trial Chamber judges that a fair verdict would see the pair put behind bars for life.
Two years after the trial against the men opened, it was the final opportunity for civil party lawyers and prosecutors to make their rebuttals after the defense teams were given two days each to argue why Nuon Chea, 87, and Khieu Samphan, 82—both of whom will address the court for the last time today—should be acquitted.
Nicholas Koumjian, the reserve international co-prosecutor, whose predecessor Andrew Cayley resigned from his post in August, sought to deflect defense claims that the fair trial rights of the co-accused had not been honored, insisting that “every effort” had been made to ensure that the trial was fair.
“That is all we ask—that you judge this case fairly and justly in proportion to the gravity of the crimes,” he said.
“If guilt cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, it is your duty to acquit. But we’ve shown clear and convincing evidence and the gravity of the crimes proves guilt beyond reasonable doubt and justifies the sentence [national prosecutor] Chea Leang asked for last week.”
He said defense claims that the trial was “a propaganda exercise” supported by donors could be easily disproved, because “our truths are that these two are responsible for some of the gravest crimes in history—without any interference from the court, donors and other sources.”
“They say verdicts are predetermined. We agree that the evidence is so strong that only guilty verdicts against [the] accused should be reached. But that’s based on evidence.”
Prosecutors did not, he said, seek to punish Nuon Chea or Khieu Samphan based on their ideological goals—rather that the means they used in trying to reach that end were criminal and caused suffering and death.
He said the prosecution had proven the pair were part of a “joint criminal enterprise” because they knowingly and willingly took part in policies that brought about such misery.
“The forcible evacuation of Phnom Penh was an act of such ruthless inhumanity that really is without precedent,” he said. “Can you imagine elderly persons such as Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea today being expelled from a city, put on a road to walk for weeks and provide for themselves?”
Senior Assistant Prosecutor Keith Raynor waved off defense arguments that the criminal aspects of the regime were carried out by rogue commanders, insisting that evidence suggests otherwise.
“Insulting us is not advocacy,” he added, in relation to remarks from the Khieu Samphan team that prosecutors were simply backpackers in purple robes.
“I’ll let you decide whether ranting like a deranged peacock is advocacy…. We are not in an international anti-communist conspiracy to subvert justice, we are here to prosecute, we do it vigorously, that is our job.”
His colleague, Tarik Abdulhak, said the men had “brought the country to its knees” and were “the masters of deception” who deserved nothing less than life in prison.
Lyma Nguyen, a civil party lawyer, urged the judges to consider the suffering recounted in court by her clients when they retire to deliberate a verdict.
“Nuon Chea’s and Khieu Samphan’s continual justifications make a mockery of the victims,” she said.
“Only if freedom is slavery and only if black is white can the death of 2 million Cambodians be good for the population…. Because until the truth is revealed for what it really was, there cannot be real justice.”