Two leading figures of the Khmer Rouge have been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of committing crimes against humanity by Cambodia’s UN-backed tribunal.

Khieu Samphan, 83, and Nuon Chea, 88, are the first top-level leaders of the regime to be held accountable.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Nil Nonn said that they were guilty of “extermination encompassing murder, political persecution, and other inhumane acts comprising forced transfer, enforced disappearances and attacks against human dignity”.

Samphan served as the regime’s head of state, while Chea was Pol Pot’s deputy.

Ieng Sary, who served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister of the Maoist state, died in custody in 2012 before the case against him could be brought to a verdict.

Up to two million people died between 1975 and 1979 under the Khmer Rouge due to starvation, overwork, and widespread political executions.

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