Cambodian tribunal upholds life sentences for top Khmer Rouge leaders

Phnom Penh (dpa) – Cambodia's long-running genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh dismissed an appeal Wednesday of two top Khmer Rouge leaders who had hoped to overturn their life sentences for crimes against humanity.

Nuon Chea, known as Pol Pot's right-hand man, and Khieu Samphan, Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party, were tried and convicted together on August 7, 2014.

Both men were top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, which ruled Cambodia from April 1975 to January 1979.

During that period some 20 per cent of the population were killed by authorities, in what has been classified as a genocide.

While the pair's life sentences were upheld by the highest level of the tribunal, the Supreme Court Chamber, the body did dismiss separate charges on Wednesday. 

Supreme Court President Kong Srim found that both men could not be held responsible for the execution of 250 soldiers at the Toul Po Chrey execution site in April 1975, due to a lack of evidence.

The court also found that forced population transfers between 1975 and 1977 did not amount to a crime against humanity on political grounds, because it was difficult to distinguish which groups of Cambodians were being moved around. 

Due to the large number of charges against the two men, their prosecution at the tribunal was divided into two separate cases. 

Chea and Samphan are now aged 90 and 85 respectively.

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