Today, May 20, 2022, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) marks the annual National Day of Remembrance for the Cambodian Genocide. On this day in 1975, the communist regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge government carried out a series of atrocities that included mass executions, displacement, forced labor, and exposure to starvation and disease against Cambodian citizens. During the period between 1975 and 1979, approximately 1.7 million individuals – over 20% of the Cambodian population – lost their lives. As a result, the Cambodian Genocide is widely regarded as one of the deadliest atrocities of the 20th century.
In 2001, the Cambodian National Assembly adopted legislation to establish a court to prosecute serious crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979) called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (ECCC). In June 2003, the Cambodian government entered into an arrangement with the United Nations to facilitate international support for the ECCC’s proceedings.
In November of 2018, the ECCC convicted senior Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan of genocide, crimes against humanity, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. This followed a 2014 conviction against both men of crimes against humanity in a parallel ECCC process, as well as the 2010 conviction of Kaing Guek Eav, also for crimes against humanity. A 2019 Fact Sheet, containing a brief institutional timeline, information on defendants, and an overview of the Court’s operations can be found here.
On today’s annual Day of Remembrance, the Auschwitz Institute remembers the lives claimed by the Cambodian Genocide and reaffirms the urgency of the international community’s shared responsibility to prevent future genocides and other mass atrocities. AIPG underscores the importance of legal accountability and pursuing truth and justice in prevention efforts worldwide. The lessons learned from this tribunal are valuable in teaching younger generations to prevent history from repeating itself. Only through ending impunity and ensuring respect for fundamental human rights and the Rule of Law can “Never Again” become a reality.