Judge exonerates Paris for handing Cambodians to Khmer Rouge

3rd February 2015, Comments 0 comments

A judge has dismissed a 15-year investigation into France for allegedly handing over top Cambodian officials to the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in 1975, a source close to the case said Tuesday.

In April that year, hundreds of Cambodians and foreigners piled into the French embassy in Phnom Penh, seen as the last remaining safe haven as the Khmer Rouge took over the capital, kicking off a bloody four-year regime that left up to two million people dead.

Even though France had recognised the new regime, the Khmer Rouge demanded that Paris hand over all Cambodians and threatened to enter the embassy by force.

Eventually, they walked out of the building and their trace was lost in the ensuing genocide.

The former head of the National Assembly, Ung Boun Hor, was among them and his widow accused France in 1999 of having sent her husband -- a traitor in the eyes of the new regime -- to certain death when they handed him over.

After a 15-year investigation, Judge Emmanuelle Ducos ruled late last month that this accusation "was not corroborated" and threw the case out, the source said.

"Despite discrepancies as to how exactly the departure of the Cambodian dignitaries unravelled on April 20, 1975, all witnesses agreed that this departure was part of a voluntary surrender," she ruled.

"Informed of the ultimatum given by the Khmer Rouge authorities over their handover, the dignitaries of the old regime, including Ung Boun Hor, had decided to surrender to these authorities to avoid an armed intervention in the embassy and protect the other refugees."

But a photo published by US weekly Newsweek in May 1975 shows Ung Boun Hor appearing to wrestle with French police, in an indication that he may not have left so easily.

Ducos said the photo, seen out of context, was not enough alone "to establish a version of the facts".

She also let off French authorities who were in power at the time, even though Paris refused to give the dignitaries asylum and then gave their names to the Khmer Rouge regime.

"The dismissal of the case is a huge and legitimate deception for Mrs Ung," her lawyer Patrick Baudouin told AFP.

© 2015 AFP

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