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Genocide trial nears end of stage

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Prosecutors at Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge tribunal said Thursday the trial sends a strong message to the world that massive human rights violations will not go unpunished.

They spoke as the prosecution launched its closing arguments against two surviving leaders of the communist regime under which an estimated 1.7 million people died.

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Nuon Chea, the regime’s chief ideologist, and Khieu Samphan, its head of state, both in their 80s, are charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.

The Khmer Rouge, in power from 1975 to 1979, emptied cities, forcing Cambodians into backbreaking work in rural cooperatives and executing anyone suspected of dissent. Executions, starvation, torture, lack of medical care, and overwork were rampant.

‘‘This trial is important for Cambodia, but not just Cambodia — it is important for the entire world,’’ prosecutor Chea Leang told the court. ‘‘It demonstrates that crimes of such magnitude and severity will not be forgotten and that those responsible will be held to account.’’

The trial, which is scheduled in stages, began in 2011.

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