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Khmer Rogue Survivors In 13 Bittersweet Pictures As Leaders Are Sentenced To Life In Prison (Pics)

07/08/2014 15:19 BST | Updated 07/08/2014 15:59 BST

These heartbreaking images capture the moment, through the eyes of the survivors when two former Khmer Rouge leaders were sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity.

A UN-backed war crimes tribunal in in Cambodia found Nuon Chea, known as 'Brother Number Two', and Khieu Samphan, who was the head of state for Cambodia, guilty of devising policies which led to mass executions, forced labour and torture under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

khmer rouge

Survivors travelled from around the country to witness the verdict, and cried and embraced each other when the sentence was announced. They queued up outside the court room, watching with faces heavy with emotion, as the trial's result was live-streamed on screens.

The war crimes sentence comes nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge was overthrown in 1979. The group took power by force and killed nearly two million people through repression and massacres over four years.

Chea and Samphan, who are both in their 80s, were the last living members of the regime considered well enough to face trial. They must still face a second trial for the separate charge of genocide.

For many of the survivors, the verdict had come decades too late. Some called for a sentence of death, rather than imprisonment for the pair.

"My anger remains in my heart,'' said survivor Suon Mom, a 75-year-old whose husband and four children starved to death under the regime. She told the Associated Press: "I still remember the day I left Phnom Penh, walking along the road without having any food or water to drink."

"Even if they die many times over, it would not be enough," 54-year-old Chea Sophon told the Associated Press.

He spent years in labor camps building dams and working in rice fields. "The crimes are huge, and just sentencing them to life in jail is not fair," he added.

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