Between April 17, 1975 and January 7, 1979, the Cambodian communist movement, the Khmer People's Revolutionary Party, ruled over Cambodia. Consistent with its policy of agrarian socialism, the Khmer Rouge deported people in massive numbers from urban areas into the countryside and was responsible for the deaths of over 1.5 million people, under the direction of Pol Pot, before the Khmer Rouge’s military defeat by the Vietnamese. Since that time none of those responsible for the atrocities have been brought to justice.
In 2004, following immense pressure by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), scholars, and the international community, the Royal Government of Cambodia agreed with the United Nations to establish a tribunal to prosecute a select number of leaders responsible for the atrocities during the Khmer Rouge period. The Extraordinary Chambers, or Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT), was established as a hybrid court composed of both national and international prosecutors and judges.
However, most of those responsible for the massive atrocities have died off or been given amnesty from prosecution. Only two former Khmer Rouge officials, Kaing Khek Iev (a.k.a. Deuch) and Ta Mok, were indicted and placed in custody. Other senior leaders like Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, and Nuon Chea live comfortable lives in Cambodia’s capitol, Phnom Penh, and provincial towns. Many Khmer Rouge leaders, including the movement’s supreme leader Pol Pot, and senior cadre, such as Son Sen, Yun Yat, and Ke Pauk, have died since the 1975-1979 genocide. Unlike Chile’s stripping of Pinochet’s immunity, there is no indication that the Hun Sen government in Cambodia has any inclination to strip Ieng Sary or other leaders of their amnesty.
With Ta Mok's death a few months ago, one has to ask again whether the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will do any good. With only Deuch being prosecuted, has delayed justice also denied justice? Transitional justice focuses on a balance between both restorative and retributive theories of justice. The idea of retributive justice (or lex talionis) stems from the theoretical view that social equality, or fairness, can only be achieved through punishment. On the other hand restorative justice emphasizes the reconstruction and rehabilitation of a divided society and it involves perpetrators meeting their victims and views the overall criminal justice system as a community-building process.