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Nuon Chea during the trial hearing in Case 002 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
Nuon Chea during the trial hearing in Case 002 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in 2012. ECCC

Doctors centre stage at KRT

The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s trial chamber has ordered a physical and psychiatric assessment of Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea with the aim of determining whether the octogenarian defendants are fit to stand trial as Case 002 transitions into its second – and possibly final – segment.

In a filing dated February 17 and posted to the court’s website two days later, the trial chamber appointed Dr Seena Fazel, geriatrician Dr Chan Kin Ming and psychiatrist Dr Huot Lina to examine Samphan and Chea – who are 82 and 87, respectively – and to report back on their “level of physical and/or cognitive ability”.

“The examination of the Accused shall take place on 24-25 March 2014 and a report finalized in English by 25 March 2014,” the chamber’s filing reads. “The Chamber has tentatively scheduled a hearing for 28 March 2014, to be held only upon the request of the parties, in order to permit questioning of the Experts on the conclusions contained in their Reports.”

Though neither defence team has asserted that its client is unfit to stand trial, both have requested shorter or less frequent courtroom hearings given that their clients’ ability to follow proceedings for long periods has deteriorated.

Khieu Samphan during the trial hearing in Case 002 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in 2012
Khieu Samphan during the trial hearing in Case 002 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in 2012. ECCC

In court, however, the Samphan defence team has maintained that its client’s health is fine, and should not be used as justification to rush Case 002/02 to trial.

“Mr Khieu Samphan is requesting that we wait for the full adjudication of the case [002/01], and he wants to uphold all his rights” Samphan defender Arthur Vercken said at a hearing in December. “For the time being, he is in good health, and he would like to be tried in accordance with principles of the law.”

In its response to the defence teams’ positions, the prosecution had argued against allowing the medical assessment, while at the same time granting the request for shorter hours – at least while the appeals process in Case 002/01 is ongoing.

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