A UN-sponsored tribunal set up to prosecute five former leaders of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (known as the Khmer Rouge), which ruled from 1975 to 1979 and presided over the unnatural deaths of an estimated 1.8m Cambodians, announced in mid-January that it had concluded its investigations into four of the defendants. They are the former head of state of Democratic Kampuchea (as Cambodia was then known), Khieu Samphan, the former deputy secretary of the Khmer Rouge in charge of state security, Nuon Chea, the former foreign minister, Ieng Sary, and his wife, the former social affairs minister, Ieng Thirith. However, a spokesman for the tribunal, Lars Olsen, has said that trials will not begin until late 2010 at the earliest. The four defendants are all charged with genocide, among other offences.
Prosecutors are also considering serving a second round of indictments against the fifth defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, after his first trial closed its hearings in late November. Duch, the former head of a prison in which 15,000 Cambodians are thought to have been tortured and killed, is awaiting a verdict. Unless the trials are concluded soon, there are concerns that the relatives of those killed under Khmer Rouge rule may not receive justice, as all the defendants are now in old age.