UN-backed Cambodian tribunal ready to pronounce verdict for 2 top Khmer Rouge leaders

UN-backed Cambodian tribunal ready to pronounce verdict for 2 top Khmer Rouge leaders

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations war crimes tribunal is ready to announce verdicts against two aging former top leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea, or known as Khmer Rouge regime, for atrocity crimes against humanity, tribunal's spokesmen said Tuesday.

Nuon Chea, 88, also known as "Brother Number 2", the chief ideologue of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, and Khieu Samphan, 83, the regime's former head of state, were among the few surviving top leaders of the regime that was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, overwork, torture, execution, and massacre from 1975 to 1979.

They are charged with crimes against humanity related to the forced movement of the population from Phnom Penh in April 1975 and the alleged execution of Khmer Republic soldiers. If found guilty, they could face life in prison.

"The verdicts for the two defendants will be delivered on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. (local time)," Dim Sovannarom, chief of the Public Affairs Section at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), said at a press briefing.

He said the tribunal's president Nil Nonn will read out the judgment with a live broadcast on all local television channels.

Lars Olsen, spokesman for the ECCC, said it will be a historical milestone for Cambodia.

"This will be the first time ever that former Khmer Rouge members of leadership will be judged by the court of law for allegations of crimes against humanity," he said.

Besides the case, the two defendants are also facing another trial for alleged genocide of Muslim Cham and Vietnamese ethnic minorities, forced marriages and rape, treatment of Buddhists, and internal purges during their regime. The ECCC held an initial hearing against the two suspects last week.

Launched in 2006, the UN-backed tribunal is seeking justice for the victims during the regime.

So far, the cash-strapped tribunal has achieved only one conviction, sentencing ex-chief of Tuol Sleng prison Kaing Guek Eav to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of around 15,000 people during the regime.