After a course of physical examinations spanning the last few weeks, Brother Number
2, Nuon Chea, 82, was judged mentally and physically ready to stand trial for Khmer
Rouge war crimes, the tribunal announced on November 1.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) also announced that it
has separated the case file for the first defendant arrested, former torture prison
chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his alias Duch, from the other defendants.
The judicial investigation into his role as chief of the Toul Sleng detention center
"should be brought to a close in the coming months," the statement said.
The aim is to conclude the investigation during the first half of 2008.
Duch's lawyer, Ka Savuth, declined comment.
Nuon Chea's health has been a cause of speculation for the last month as conflicting
reports about his hospital visits emerged. The octogenarian was arrested at his home
outside Pailin on September 19.
"He underwent an in-depth examination including a coronarography. These examinations
concluded that he is in a stable condition and that there is no medical reason which
would run counter to his detention conditions or participation in the judicial investigation,"
said a statement released by the ECCC. He was examined by three doctors.
Nuon Chea "retains perfectly satisfactory intellectual autonomy for his age,"
the statement said. "Medical follow-up will be ensured, including further expert
medical examinations two or three times a year."
According to Peter Foster, United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
(UNAKRT) spokesperson, the separation of the 63-year-old Duch's case means that "there
will now be at least two separate cases from the original co-prosecutors submission
of five names. We still do not yet know if the remaining names from the submission
will be tried together or in a group or in a couple of groups."
The court is widely expected to make another arrest soon. The most likely additional
KR defendants are Khieu Samphan, 76, and Ieng Sary, 78 and his wife Ieng Thirith,
75. Questions have come up about Thirith's mental abilities as she may be suffering
from dementia. Ieng Sary is also in poor physical health, according to people who
have recently seen him requiring assistance walking to his pagoda.
For the benefit of potential civil parties, the statement also noted that in addition
to the alleged crimes perpetrated at Toul Sleng, the overall ongoing judicial investigation
"covers three broad categories of alleged crimes: forced movements of the population;
killings, torture and other abuses at a range of security and detention centers;
and forced labor, unlawful detention and inhuman living conditions perpetrated in
Victims who have queries on the process for filing Civil Party applications will
soon be able to visit the court's Victims Unit which will become operational "in
coming days," the statement said. Until then, requests for information may be
made directly to the office of the Co-Investigating Judges, it added.
Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, said the separation of Duch's
file from the other investigations could be due to the fact that there are two groups
of people who will be tried at the ECCC - those "most responsible" for
crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge, and "senior leaders."
"Duch belongs to the second group - those 'most responsible' - and the others,
such as Nuon Chea, belong to the first - 'senior leaders' - the level of responsibility
is different," said Saray.
Saray said the most important thing for the court to focus on now is whether defendants
will be freed on bail.
"They haven't decided if they can keep detaining them," he said. "Duch's
lawyer has filed a complaint to the court saying his client should be released on
bail. There will be a hearing on November 20, and we - NGOs, members of civil society
- believe he should be detained more, that he should not be freed on bail."
Foster said the November 1 announcements were part of the court's new plan to give
regular updates so the public can keep current on the courts progress.