Ieng Sary

31.05.2016 ( Last modified: 10.06.2016 )
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Kim Trang (alias Ieng Sary) is believed was born in Vietnam in October 1925 near the Cambodian border. He was held to be an outstanding student at the Collège Sisowath in Phnom Penh where he completed his studies In 1946 he created the student organisation “Libération du Cambodge du colonialisme français”.(Liberation of Cambodia from French Colonialism) and organised the first student protests in the country’s history.

At the end of the 1940s, Ieng Sary received a scholarship to study in France at the Lycée Condorcet and at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris. It was during this period that he was introduced to communism and, in 1951, he became a member of the French Communist Party. It was also during this time that he met Saloth Sar, known as Pol Pot, and Khieu Samphan. In 1951 Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan founded the Cercle marxiste des étudiants Khmers à Paris (Marxist Circle of Khmer students in Paris). The same year, he became Pol Pot’s brother-in-law by marrying Ieng Tirith, the sister of Pol Pot’s first wife.

In 1957, Ieng Sary returned to Cambodia where he became a history professor at Collège Sisowath and an active member of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.

In 1963, went underground with Pol Pot and joined the Khmer Rouge. It was at this time that he changed his Vietnamese name to that of Ieng Sary.

During the civil war of 1971 to 1975, he was a member of the Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea and became the special envoy of the National United Front of Kampuchea.

When the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975, Ieng Sary became deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was then given the designation of “Brother Number 3”. In his position as head of the Diplomatic service of Democratic Kampuchea, Ieng Sary was the regime’s most visible personality.

His role and elevated position within the Khmer Rouge meant that he became implicated in many of the criminal acts committed by the regime. His speeches and declarations demonstrated that he was aware of the practice whereby pseudo confessions were obtained through torture. His spoken words gave the definite impression that he was in support of this practice.

Furthermore, certain of these pseudo confessions had written footnotes from Nuon Chea, the number two in the regime, saying they should be transmitted to comrade Van (Ieng Sary’s nom de guerre)

Finally and most importantly, the latter received copies of all the telegrams and other messages sent to Pol Pot which left no doubt as to the extent of the crimes being committed by the Khmer Rouge throughout the country.

Ieng Sary was also responsible for the Boueng Trebek internment and re-education camp, and for camps B17 and B18, in the province of Kompong Cham.

Ieng Sary is thought to be the person who carried out Pol Pot’s most atrocious campaigns, most notably, the massive purges within the Khmer Rouge movement. Ieng Sary was responsible for the execution of Cambodian expatriates who were deceived into returning to Cambodia under the pretence of participating in so-called National Reconstruction. It was also alleged that he was the architect of the massacre of intellectuals beginning in April 1975.

When Vietnamese forces took control of Cambodia in 1979, Ieng Sary fled to Thailand. He was then sentenced to death in absentia by the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal of Phnom Penh. He continued, however, to assume his official functions within the government in exile as the international community refused to recognise the new Cambodian government.

After the creation of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea in 1982, Ieng Sary transferred his title of Minister of Foreign Affairs to Khieu Samphan. Throughout this time, Ieng Sary personally was in command of Pailin, a Khmer Rouge stronghold.

In August 1996, Ieng Sary left the Khmer Rouge to join the government of Phnom Penh with 10 000 of his followers. Through forces loyal to him, he continued to lead the now “semi-autonomous” zone of Pailin.


legal procedure


After the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, Ieng Sary disappeared along with Pol Pot. He was indicted in absentia by the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal established by the Cambodian decree-law n°1 and adopted by the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Council. The Tribunal had jurisdiction to try the crimes of genocide committed by the “Pol Pot-Ieng Sary Clique”.

For that purpose, the notion of genocide was given a new definition compared to the definition given in the United Nations 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in order to incorporate the crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge. The final adopted text listed the acts committed by the Khmer Rouge, to include “planned mass killing of innocent people, forced evacuation of inhabitants assembled from towns and villages and sent out to forced labour in conditions which destroyed them both physically and mentally, banning of religious practices, destruction of economic and cultural institutions and social relations”. Based on the evidence of such practices the court would be able to establish that the crime of genocide had indeed been committed.

During the trial, which was held without the accused, from 15 to 19 August 1979 the Tribunal sat on judgment on 8 counts of indictment:

1 – Implementation of a systematic and increasingly ferocious massacre of various sections of the population: the wide scale extermination of almost all the officers and soldiers of the former regime, the execution of intellectuals, the mass murder of all persons, and destruction of those organizations, opposed to their regime.
2 – Mass murder of priests and religious believers, elimination of religious practice, systematic extermination of national minorities, whether opponents or not, in order that they be assimilated; extermination of foreign residents.
3 – Forced evacuation of the population from Phnom Penh and other liberated cities and villages; destruction or disruption of social and familial structures; mass murder and the creation of a life threatening environment.
4 – Assembling the population into so called communes- in effect disguised concentration camps- where it was to labour and live in such conditions that it led to its mental and physical destruction, and where extensive mass murder occurred.
5 – Massacre of young children, persecution and indoctrination of the youth thereby turning them into cruel and emotionless bandits.
6 – Undermining of the structures of the national economy: abolition of culture, education and social services.
7 – After their overthrow by authentic revolutionary forces, Pol Pot and Ieng Sary nevertheless kept up their opposition to the revolution, committing numerous crimes and murdering those who refused to follow them.
8 – During their four years in power, Pol Pot and Ieng Sary used the most barbarous method to torture and kill.”
(Trial Watch translation, see Links ‘Jugement de Pol Pot et Ieng Sary’ in French)

The Tribunal found Ieng Sary guilty of genocide and on 19 August 1979 sentenced him in absentia to death.

The trial was generally considered to have had insufficient judicial guarantees and was not recognised by the international community.

In August 1996, the deputy Prime Minister Hun Sen granted Ieng Sary amnesty.

On 14 September 1996, Ieng Sary was pardoned by a Royal Decree from King Sihanouk and obtained amnesty from prosecution under the Cambodian law of 14 July 1994 outlawing of the Democratic Kampuchea group.


On 18 July 2007, prosecutors for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) announced that they had transferred the files of five suspects susceptible of being tried for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity to the Chambers.

On 12 November 2007, Ieng Sary was arrested along with his wife, Ieng Thirith, on a warrant issued by the Co-Investigating Judges of the CEEE on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On 16 December 2009, Sary was also formally charged with genocide.

The prosecutor’s submission accuses him of responsibility for “forced labor, inhumane living conditions, unlawful arrest and detention, physical and mental abuse, torture and killing” and of taking part in purges “which resulted in at least thousands and quite probably tens of thousands of deaths.”

On 22 September 2011, the Trial Chamber decided the division of Case 002 into a series of smaller trials which will be tried separately. The Chamber took this decision in order to reduce the time for the Chamber to complete the trials.

The first trial will concern the forced movement of population (phases one and two) and the related charges of crimes against humanity.

On 21 November 2011, the ECCC commenced Case 002 against Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan. Ieng Thirith was declared unfit to stand trial.

Ieng Sary was hospitalized on 17 May and 7 September 2012. His poor health raises fears among observers and victims that Ieng Sary and the other accused will not see the end of the proceedings. He was again hospitalized on 4 March 2013. On 14 March 2013, Ieng Sary died in the hospital.



Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC):

On 13 May 2003, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution approving a proposed agreement reached between the UN and Cambodia concerning the prosecution of those holding major responsibility for the crimes committed between 1975 and 1979 (A/RES/57/228/B). The agreement provided for the setting up of Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), integrated into the existing judicial system, and in which International judges would also preside. The court would be funded by voluntary contributions.

On 4 October 2004, the Cambodian Nation Assembly ratified this treaty. On 27 October 2004, the treaty was proclaimed into law by the King. The ECCC has jurisdiction with respect to crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the violations of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property.

In 8 May 2006, 17 Cambodian and 12 international judges to the ECCC were appointed by royal decree. And in 7 July 2006 the ECCC announced the establishment of a defenders council staffs by foreign lawyers to ensure adequate defence.

On 18 July 2007, the Co-prosecutors of the ECCC announced that they had transferred to the ECCC judges the files of five suspects, expected to be tried notably for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, homicide, torture and religious persecution. The investigating judges (a foreign and a Cambodian judge) were then to examine the cases and decide whether and which of the suspects would be tried by the ECCC.

On 31 July 2007, Guek Eav Kaing, “Duch” became the first suspect to be arrested and detained by the ECCC and on 26 July 2010, the Trial Chamber found him guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, sentencing him to 35 years of imprisonment. On 16 September 2010 the ECCC indicted Thirith Ieng, Sary Ieng, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea on charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and murder.


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