Closing Arguments Continue with the Prosecution’s Case

The second day of closing arguments in Case 002/02 started as usual: Judge Nil Nonn started the proceedings at 9 a.m., and the Greffier confirmed that all parties were present, except for Nuon Chea, who is not present due to back pain. Nuon Chea waived his right to attend today’s hearing due to his medical condition, but he clarified that he has not waived his right to be tried fairly or challenge evidence admitted by this Chamber at any time. The Chamber granted Mr. Nuon’s request to follow the proceedings remotely.

Judge Nonn turned the proceedings over to Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang who began to present the prosecution’s final arguments.

Ms. Leang greeted the court and provided an overview of the crimes in Case 002/02 that were suffered by the Cambodian people during the Democratic Kampuchea. She stated that the crimes include starvation, overwork, disease, other inhumane acts, persecution, genocide of the Cham and Vietnamese, the forced marriage and rape of Khmer women, and the imprisonment, forced labor, and torture of millions of others in worksites and security centers.

Ms. Leang explained that the reason for the second part of the trial, regardless of the guilty verdict in the first part, is that justice continues to be sought of the victims of these crimes. She acknowledged that the process of seeking justice has been neither quick nor easy, nor should have it been.

To this end, Ms. Leang detailed the evidence-gathering efforts in this case. Between 2007 and 2010, the Office of Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ) investigated the crimes in Case 002. During this time OCIJ also conducted over 1,000 witness interviews and received over 8,000 civil party applications and victim complaints. Ms. Leang then briefly reviewed the procedural history of Case 002/01 and Case 002/02. Taking both Case 002/01 and Case 002/02 together, this Chamber has heard testimony from 278 witnesses, civil parties, and experts, and admitted over 16,000 documents. Documents include contemporaneous documents from the Democratic Kampuchea area, such as telegram and reports sent to the CPK leaders from the zones and Democratic Kampuchea organizations, minutes of meetings of meetings, the Revolutionary Flag and Youth Party publications, records from the S-21 prison and Tram Kok district, interviews, speeches, statements of Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan , and other CPK leaders, witness interviews conducted by OCIJ and DC Cam and other organizations, and publications by experts who have researched the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

Ms. Leang stated that contrary to Defense claims, this case has always been about the evidence, and not narrative, which shows the truth and proves the crimes for which the Accused are responsible. She said that it is the evidence that will be the focus of the Co-Prosecutor’s submissions in the next two days. And she maintains that it is this evidence that will be the basis for the Chamber’s decision.

Ms. Leang will discuss crimes at worksites, including enslavement, other inhumane acts, persecution relating to Buddhists, and forced marriage and rape. Ms. Leang’s colleague will cover the crimes at security centers, genocide, and other key issues, such as whether a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) existed.

Ms. Leang stated that enslavement at worksite cooperatives was a crime that affected nearly every Cambodian who lived in the cooperative and that the impact of this crime on the Cambodian people cannot be overstated as it affected a person’s job, occupation, home, religion, family life, and friendships. Virtually every defining part of Cambodian day -to-day life was taken away by the CPK in what was the most extreme transformation of society in modern times. No matter what workers did before April 1975, they were required to give up that life to become a worker who built infrastructure dams or a rice farmer.

The Accused have been charged with crimes at four worksites, the Trapeang Thma Dam, Tram Kok Cooperatives, 1st January Dam worksite, and the Kampong Chhnang Airport.

Ms. Leang first discussed nature of the crimes alleged against the Accused. Enslavement is the crime of exercising power over a person akin to ownership, by exploiting them for economic gain through forced labor, controlling their movement and environment, depriving them of their freedom, and preventing their escape from your control. Forced labor exists when it is shown that the victims had no real choice as to whether or not to work. Other inhumane acts are acts or omissions that cause serious suffering or injury to victims, such as detaining people in inadequate living conditions.

Next, Ms. Leang discussed the criminal liability of the Accused. She stated that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were in a small group at the top of the CPK who decided that Cambodians would give up their lives and become peasants or workers in the cooperatives and worksites of the Democratic Kampuchea. These decisions were made at party congresses and central committee meetings, attended by both Accused, including the critical meeting in May 1975 after the CPK seized power. Both Accused have admitted that people were forced to work in the cooperatives and were not free. Nuon Chea has done so in his testimony at the ECCC, and Khieu Samphan has done so in previous public interviews.

Ms. Leang stated that one of the key elements of the crime of enslavement is the control of victimized people. She said that evidence will show that control was the principle reason for the CPK implementation of cooperatives. A CPK publication “Revolutionary Flag,” written by Khieu Samphan, stated that the cooperatives were critical in controlling the production of rice, the country, and the people. Nuon Chea has stated in his books the need to control and seize the people by means of cooperatives.

Ms. Leang then quoted experts who have also described the Democratic Kampuchea as a slave state, in which people had no control over their lives or anything they did. As an example, Ms. Leang stated that testimony showed that daily life in the cooperatives started very early in the morning, workers had no control over when or what they ate, or what kind of work they did. Land, family, and religion were the three most important aspects of daily life, and Cambodians had no control over any of them.

Ms. Leang explained that the CPK had developed a policy to produce three tons of agricultural output per hectare, while building the necessary supporting infrastructure projects at “breakneck speed.” This policy was called the Great Leap Forward. Khieu Samphan had described this revolution plan at the May 1975 Central Committee meeting at the Silver Pagoda where he discussed the need to urgently build these projects. Nuon Chea had also agreed with the plan to build infrastructure quickly.

Ms. Leang stated that both Accused knew the cost of building these works so quickly and increasing the agricultural output so drastically. They knew they were pushing people too hard, the same people who did not have adequate food or medical care, and who were living in conditions that would eventually lead to death. People were working fifteen hours a day while there were shortages of food and medicine that led to sickness, pain, and malnourishment.

Despite the conditions at the worksites, the leaders continued to celebrate the Great Leap Forward. Ms. Leang said that they even increased the goal to 3.5 tons per hectare and pushed the population even harder to dig even bigger dams. The two Accused played an instrumental role in implementing this policy through their speeches and reeducation sessions where they exhorted their followers to push harder.

Ms. Leang explained that the Accused were aware of the situations at the worksites. At one reeducation session, for example, both Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea instructed cadres on how workers who were sick should be considered enemies, and they instructed cadres on how oppressive work and living conditions could be used to draw out enemies. One witness testified to his attendance at this meeting, and his terror at hearing the policy of branding Cambodians who did not work hard enough or were lazy as enemies.

In addition, Ms. Leang gave examples of how the Accused have themselves admitted how their policies caused suffering to the Cambodian people. Khieu Samphan did so in a Voice of America interview where he described his thinking about the hardship imposed on Cambodians in order to achieve the plan, saying that he realized that the CPK would not be able to reach this goal unless the people ran faster and faster, and that the Cambodians ran with starvation and some with less food, and they lacked rice and medicines, and he knew this because Khieu Samphan was managing the medicines. Nuon Chea had also acknowledged in a 2007 interview with a German reporter that the progress was too fast and the demands on the people were too high. He also admitted to Thet Sambath, his personal biographer, that the CPK regime may have been destroyed because the Great Leap Forward was very fast.

Next, Ms. Leang reviewed and addressed the Accused defenses to these charges, which was primarily that they did not know that people were starving, and that they did not know that conditions were so awful. Ms. Leang pointed out that their own statements show otherwise. In addition to their statements, both Accused traveled throughout the country visiting the sites personally and had the opportunity to witness the conditions for themselves

In support of this, Ms. Leang offered evidence from King Father Norodom Sihanouk who had given interviews describing how he traveled with Khieu Samphan through Cambodia in 1976 and describing the conditions that King Sihanouk saw, specifically how work went on day and night, the conditions were like those in concentration camps, that food amounts were insufficient, and the diet was very, very bad. Ms. Leang noted that what Norodom Sihanouk could see, Khieu Samphan could also see. Moreover, Ms. Leang noted that on December 13, 2011, in the same courtroom where this hearing was held, Khieu Samphan himself described how he saw workers walking through rice fields at 4 a.m.

In addition to the statements made by both Accused, Ms. Leang reviewed the documentary evidence on the conditions at the worksites and whether the Accused were aware of the stress on the Cambodian people. Ms. Leang stated that the reporting during the period was extensive. Zones sent reports and records regularly to the party center leaders in Phnom Penh, and, despite the party center leaders attempt to destroy these records before fleeing in 1979, many records have survived.

Ms. Leang proposed that these records prove beyond any doubt that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were notified of the starvation, killings, and arrests in their regions. Both Accused received reports that the people in the countryside suffered from disease, starvation, due to lack of medical supplies, food, and overwork. For example, the Central Zone secretary reported that people across the zone were suffering from diarrhea and overhea