Representatives of the two imprisoned Khmer Rouge tribunal candidates plan to appeal
government plans to extend their pre-trial detention periods.
Ka Savuth, lawyer for the former head of S-21 prison, Duch, and Van Ra, who was the
chef for the military commander of the south-west region, Ta Mok, said they would
seek the men's release once their detention periods expire next year.
Their comments come after Prime Minister Hun Sen said November 16 that the men would
not be released once their three year detention period ended. The government passed
an amendment August 1999 allowing the courts to hold those suspected of genocide
or crimes against humanity for up to three years, rather than six months.
Monh Saphan, chairman of the Legislation Committee of the National Assembly, said
an extension was being drafted, but had not yet reached him.
However, the head of monitoring at human rights NGO Adhoc, decried the government's
efforts to amend the law for specific individuals. Yi Kosalva-thanak said such actions
did not benefit the country.
"The principle behind legislating is not to make laws for individual A or individual
B," said Kosalvathanak.
Although Ta Mok and Duch, were suspects, they were still innocent until proven guilty,
he said. The men should be freed once their detention period expired, but could still
remain under investigation.
"It would not benefit the Cambodian people if [the UN and the Cambodian government]
intend to let the suspects die. Justice would not be found [that way]," he said.
Meanwhile Duch's lawyer, Savuth, told the Post December 17 that he would write a
letter to the prosecutor asking to release him once the three year period expired.
That, he said, was no more than the UNTAC-era law demanded. He added that he had
not met his client in two months, despite writing three letters to the prosecutor.
"I don't know why this is," he said. "I have written letters asking
permission to meet my client and I end up waiting for more than [the statutory reply
period of] three days for a reply," he said.
Ta Mok's lawyer, Benson Samay, declined to talk to the Post. Van Ra criticized him
for not taking care of his client and said she planned to engage a new lawyer.
"I need an independent lawyer to protect Ta Mok because his responsibility during
the Khmer Rouge regime was not as important as others," she said.
Van Ra said she was concerned at government plans to extend Ta Mok's detention period
for another year while it awaits the UN's response.
"After Ta Mok has served his legal detention period, I want him freed. He is
old and has swellings on his body," said Van Ra. "It is an injustice for
him when other senior leaders are living freely in their luxury houses and with cars."
Ta Mok's youngest daughter, 39-year-old Preak Chrek, visited him November 23 and
said he was looking forward to his release once his detention period ends March,
Ta Mok and Duch have been held in Phnom Penh's military prison since their respective
arrests March 6 and May 10, 1999, and were originally charged under a 1994 law outlawing
membership in the KR.