PHNOM PENH — Two Khmer Rouge leaders have formally appealed convictions for crimes against humanity which saw them handed life sentences by Cambodia’s U.N.-backed court. In August “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 88, and the ex-head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, became the first top leaders to be jailed from a regime responsible for the deaths of up to two million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. Their lawyers immediately vowed to appeal, but the details only emerged in documents posted on the tribunal’s website dated Monday. In a 30-page document Nuon Chea’s legal team alleged 223 errors in the case and judgment against their client and said this amounted to a “miscarriage of justice.”
They also accused the judges of failing to remain impartial due to “their personal experiences” under the Khmer Rouge. Khieu Samphan’s lawyers accused the court of a string of errors and of overseeing an unfair trial by presuming he had knowledge of events such as the evacuation of Phnom Penh. A spokesman for the U.N.-backed court said the appeal would not be heard this year. Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, who died in 1998 without ever facing justice, the Khmer Rouge dismantled modern society in their quest for an agrarian utopia. Nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population was wiped out by starvation or execution. The complex case against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan was split into a series of smaller trials in 2011 for reasons including their advanced age and the large number of accusations. Their convictions followed a two-year trial focused on the forced evacuation of around two million Cambodians from Phnom Penh into rural labor camps and murders at one execution site. In their second trial which will resume on Oct. 17, the pair face charges including genocide of Vietnamese people and ethnic Muslims, forced marriages and rape. The special court, set up in 2006, has been hit by chronic cash shortages — relying almost entirely on foreign donations — as well as being dogged by allegations of political interference.