“The [Communist Party of Kampuchea] liberated people from slavery,” Nuon Chea says from the stand. Hunched in his wheelchair, the 87-year-old speaks with a quiet intensity that hushes the public gallery. For the past two years, he has listened to dozens of witnesses describe the horrors of the Khmer Rouge’s 1975 to 1979 rule – a period in which an estimated 1.7 million people (nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population at the time) died from hunger, disease, and the executioner’s hand as the regime violently sought to restructure Cambodian society. To Nuon Chea, however, this was an era in which a group of visionaries and patriots attempted to transform their war-torn country into an agrarian utopia. As Pol Pot’s former right-hand man, the unrepentant communist is the highest-ranking member of the Khmer Rouge to be brought to trial…
For more on the troubled Khmer Rouge Tribunal and the team that is defending Nuon Chea, see “The Devil’s Advocates” in The Diplomat. Nuon Chea’s Cambodian lawyer was once a commander in Cambodia’s anti-communist army. You can read about his fascinating life story in “The Major and the Monster” in the December 2013 issue of the Southeast Asia Globe. Likening the tribunal to “a very bad Gilbert and Sullivan,” Nuon Chea lawyer Andrew Ianuzzi left his position in January 2013. You can read about his decision to quit in “Exit Stage Left” in the Southeast Asia Globe‘s February 2013 edition. The Toronto Star‘s World Weekly section also published a Q&A with veteran defence attorney Michael Karnavas in March 2013 that details the tribunal’s numerous failings.
“THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATES”
December 20, 2013