THE HAGUE, Netherlands – It was a historic day for the International Court on Friday and for the people of Cambodia who have waited so long for justice over the atrocities including genocide that took place under the brutal extremist Pol Pot regime in what was known as Kampuchea.
Two former Khmer Rouge leaders on Friday were convicted on genocide charges.
"This is a good day for justice," Adama Dieng, UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide said on Friday.
"It demonstrates that justice will prevail, and that impunity should never be accepted for genocide and other atrocity crimes," Dieng said.
Nyon Chea, now aged 92, who was deputy leader during the time of Pol Pot, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, now 87, were charged with exterminating Cham Muslim and ethnic Vietnamese communities between April 1975 and January 1979.
"At a time when we are witnessing a dangerous disregard for fundamental rights and international legal norms and standards in many parts of the world, this decision sends a strong message, in the region and globally, to those who commit, incite or condone atrocity crimes that sooner or later they will be held accountable," UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide said.
It is the first time that any of Pol Pot's senior officials of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, as the ruling party was known, have been convicted of genocide, according to news reports.
Both men were convicted for grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution on political, religious and racial grounds and other inhumane acts against civilians in Cambodia during the four-year period.
The UN Special Advisor also expressed his support and solidarity with the victims, saying that "all the people who have suffered as a result of the heinous crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during this period have waited a long time for justice. Hopefully this decision will provide them with some measure of redress and solace."
He said it was also an historic verdict, when it comes to preventing similar crimes in the future: "While criminal accountability is foremost a tool to provide justice and redress to victims, it also has an important preventative function as a deterrent as well as to help societies in reconciliation efforts," he said.