Thursday, 7 February 2008

Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea not likely to be released on bail
Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Anne Heindel [legal advisor, Documentation Center of Cambodia]: "The provisional release hearing of “Brother Number Two,” Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, was cut short on Monday in response to a request by his Cambodian attorney. Son Arun argued that the proceedings must be adjourned due to the unavailability of his foreign co-counsel. Nuon’s Dutch attorney Victor Koppe was unable to appear at the proceedings after the Cambodian Bar Association refused to admit him on Friday, arguing that he had violated the Bar’s rules by signing a motion requesting the disqualification of one of the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) judges before being admitted to practice. The defense strategy appears to have worked. On Tuesday the Bar swore in Koppe, and Nuon’s hearing will resume on Thursday morning.

This is the second time that Nuon, charged by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia with crimes against humanity and war crimes, has requested the Court to address the scope of the right to counsel. In September, the Co-Investigating Judges (CIJs) held Nuon’s initial appearance without any counsel present. Nuon’s counsel later requested that the written records of those proceeding be annulled to remedy violations of his right to counsel and other fair trial rights. Last month the CIJs ruled that Nuon had clearly and deliberately waived his right to counsel, and refused to seize the PTC on this matter.

With these trial rights questions decided for the moment, Thursday’s hearing is likely to be short. Nuon’s attorneys are arguing that the conditions for his provisional detention have not been met. However, this argument is not likely to persuade the PTC. In November, the PTC reviewed the CIJs thinly reasoned decision in the case of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kang Guek Eak (alias Duch) and found that the legal requirements had been met for his continued detention. The prosecution’s arguments for detention were similar, and indeed stronger, in Duch’s case. Duch’s pretrial rights were likely violated by the almost nine years he was detained by a Cambodian military court, he has previously confessed his responsibility for torture and murder of detainees, and he is likely cooperating with Court. Nuon was second only to Pol Pot and has never accepted responsibility for the crimes of the Democratic Kampuchea regime. Despite Nuon’s 81 years, the PTC will undoubtedly agree with the CIJs that he is a flight risk and might interfere with victims and witnesses, and that his release could imperil public order as well as Nuon’s personal safety."

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