The four top surviving leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime went on trial before a U.N.-backed court for the first time on Monday, three decades after the brutal revolution left an estimated 1.7 million people dead.
The indictment is more than 350 pages long, and includes accusations of genocide, torture and war crimes, according to CNN.
The four defendants, who were close confidants of the late Pol Pot, the French-educated leader of the Khmer's ultra-Maoist revolution, are now elderly and infirm and they say they are innocent, Reuters said.
According to CNN:
"They are alleged to be responsible for the whole policy, which ended up in crimes being conducted all over this country," says Lars Olsen, the spokesman for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
"It is probably one of the first times since the Nuremburg trials (the case against the Nazis that began in 1945) where the whole remaining political leadership ... have been put on trial together. Cambodians have been waiting for more than 30 years for someone to be held accountable for what happened during the years the Khmer Rouge was in power."
Forbes said that 84-year-old Nuon Chea, who was Pol Pot's No. 2 and the group's chief ideologist; 79-year-old former head of state Khieu Samphan; ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, 85; and his 79-year-old wife, Ieng Thirith, who served as minister for social affairs, are all on trial beginning Monday.
None of the defendants have shown any willingness to cooperate with the court and there are concerns that Cambodians will be denied the chance to hear first-hand accounts of the motivation and thinking behind the brutal killing spree by an enigmatic regime, Reuters said.
The case is a test of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or the ECCC, an international-led tribunal created in 2005. This is the second trial to come before the ECCC of Khmer Rouge players in Cambodia. The first defendant was Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, commandant of Tuol Sleng prison, where only a few of the prisoners survived. As many as 16,000 people were tortured under Duch's command at the prison. Duch, now 68, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but his sentence was cut to 19 years because of technicalities, which sparked criticism among his victims, Forbes reported.