35 years searching for justice in Cambodia

Close to two million people were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, a generation lost in a country where the word happiness was eradicated from the dictionary. On board of a bus, fifty survivors, many of them civil parties at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, traveled from different provinces throughout the country to recover a small part of what was murdered by Pol Pot and his “brothers”.

Since then, many of the Khmer Rouge leaders, including Pol Pot, have escaped judgement, dying of old age before they were ever called to be judged. Yesterday, 35 years after Cambodia was returned to the Cambodians, two of the former Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, were given life sentences for crimes against humanity by a United Nations-backed tribunal that has taken too long to give back a bit of peace to those who lost family during the most horrific period in the history of Cambodia.

As one of the survivors said after the pronouncement of the life sentence, happiness is too big of a word to describe what this sentence has finally brought to Cambodia and for those who have been searching for justice since 1979.

“I am not happy. Nothing will bring my family back. But now everyone knows that they were murdered by the Khmer Rouge. Many of the leaders are still there, others have died without being accused. But today finally we have that bit of justice that we have been fighting for since the beginning”.

Photography: ©Omar Havana / Getty Images. All Rights Reserved