EU hails Khmer Rouge verdict in 'fight against impunity'

BRUSSELS - The European Union hailed Thursday the guilty verdict in Cambodia against two Khmer Rouge leaders as a victory for the fight against impunity.

The life sentences pronounced against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are "an important positive step in the global fight against impunity," said a statement from the office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"It demonstrates that any political leaders can be held accountable for their acts, even decades after they were committed." The two were found guilty of crimes against humanity, in the first sentences against top figures of a regime responsible for the deaths of up to two million Cambodians by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

The EU has contributed substantially to the functioning of the Court over the last years and the statement said it would continue its support "in the interest of justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime and to contribute to the national reconciliation process in Cambodia." Neither "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 88, nor former head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, betrayed any hint of emotion as the sentences were handed down.

But outside the UN-backed court, regime survivors applauded, many weeping after a 35-year wait for justice.