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Ieng Sary health woes prompt adjournment

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Former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary attends a hearing at the ECCC in 2010. Photograph: ECCC/POOL/Mak Remissa

Former Khmer Rouge Minister for Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary has been undergoing emergency treatment for bronchitis since Thursday, according to a medical report read aloud at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.

Judges adjourned proceedings until Wednesday, when they will hear from doctors who have been treating the octogenarian at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital since his evacuation to the facility.

“Having read the report that clearly indicates that Ieng Sary cannot be discharged from the hospital until [Tuesday], the chamber now decided that [Monday and Tuesday] proceedings cannot go on,” Trial Chamber president Nil Nonn said.

Ieng Sary defence counsel Michael Karnavas told the court that he had been blocked from visiting his client in hospital.

“It would be good if the lawyers were informed about his medical condition. Normally, we are not; normally, we are kept in the dark,” Karnavas said of his client, who has been hospitalised several times since his detention at the tribunal began in 2007.

Speaking to the Post by telephone yesterday, Karnavas said that he had visited his client at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital – something previously barred by Calmette Hospital.

“My impression is that my client is probably best to have the week off and rest,” Karnavas said. “And there will be no waiver [of his right to be present at trial] provided for witnesses testifying to his case particularly.”

Karnavas said the former diplomat was very active in his defence and gave lawyers guidance and advice during proceedings.

“With his present condition, we don’t know yet how capable he is to follow proceedings,” Karnavas said. “If he falls asleep in the holding cell, that is not active participation.

“That would be nothing but a charade to suggest that he is following the proceedings.”

Open Society Justice Initiative trial monitor Clair Duffy said the decision to adjourn was “absolutely correct”.

“We are exploring issues of policies, and authority over individuals. It is very hard for the Trial Chamber to proceed without him,” Duffy said.

“If this unravels over a period of time, there might be other measures the court needs to consider, like severing him from the proceedings, and that will come down to what his health conditions are and how likely they are to worsen,” she added.

Ieng Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, has already been severed from proceedings in Case 002 for health reasons.

The “first lady of the regime” has been diagnosed with dementia believed to be caused by Alzeheimer’s.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at bridget.dicerto@phnompenhpost.com

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