The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has transferred former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan to Kandal Provincial Prison to continue serving his life sentence.

Samphan, now the sole surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge, was sent to the Kandal prison on January 30, co-prosecutors Chea Leang and Fergal Gaynor announced in a February 1 statement.

Although the trials that took place under the purview of the ECCC – which was created to investigate and try those deemed to be most responsible for serious crimes during the Khmer Rouge period – were undertaken with international support, including some prosecutors and judges who were not Cambodian, the hybrid tribunal operated within the Cambodian legal system and the Cambodian authorities are ultimately responsible for incarcerating anyone convicted and sentenced at the ECCC to a term of imprisonment.

“This process involved discussions with and assurances from the General Department of Prisons as well as multiple visits to Kandal Provincial Prison by the Co-Prosecutors. The Co-Prosecutors are also mindful of the fact that the International Committee of the Red Cross conducts regular prison inspections of prisons throughout Cambodia including Kandal Provincial Prison,” read the statement.

Samphan was arrested on November 19, 2007 and detained under the authority detained under the authority of the co-investigating judges for his alleged participation in crimes against humanity committed by the Khmer Rouge. After a full investigation, he was indicted and put on trial.

The first trial, Case 002/01, began in November 2011 and concluded in July 2013. The judges announced their verdict in August 2014.

Samphan and Nuon Chea, known as Brother No2, were convicted of crimes against humanity including mass murder and other inhumane acts such as the forced transfer of the civilian population from Phnom Penh and other urban centres.

Both were sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in these crimes. On appeal, the life sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court Chamber in November 2016.

The second trial, Case 002/02, started in November 2014 and finished in July 2017. The verdict was issued in November 2018. Nuon Chea and Samphan were convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions for acts including persecution, enslavement, imprisonment, forced marriage, rape, torture, murder, extermination and forced disappearances.

They were both sentenced to life imprisonment. On September 22, 2022, the Supreme Court Chamber upheld Samphan’s life sentence, whereas Nuon Chea had passed away in August, 2019.

The verdict stated that the crimes being tried in Case 002 represented the most significant mass atrocity prosecution since the trial of the Nazi leadership at Nuremburg, Germany, at the end of World War II.

Although critics of the ECCC often pointed out the limited number of perpetrators whose crimes were accounted for, most human rights advocates agreed that the proceedings brought at least some measure of justice to the “millions” of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Many historians of the Khmer Rouge period stated that the trials made an important contribution to the process of preserving evidence of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge leadership, which provided both academics and the general public with a better understanding of how that tragic period in Cambodian history came to pass.