Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KRT: five arrests and more expected; trials may start next July

KRT: five arrests and more expected; trials may start next July

KRT: five arrests and more expected; trials may start next July

krt.jpg
krt.jpg

Duch Hearing: From left: Duch's foreign lawyer, Francois Roux, Duch (in the wooden dock) and the head of the ECCC's defense support section, Rupert Skilbeck (back row, wearing suit).

With the arrest of Khieu Samphan at Calmette hospital two weeks ago, the five highest

ranking Khmer Rouge leaders still alive are reunited as fellow inmates at the jail

beside the war crimes tribunal's chambers.

But there's room for more in the detention center, and a court official has confirmed

that more arrests may be coming.

"The co-prosecutors are still working. They have not stopped at all," said

Peter Foster, UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trial (UNARKT) spokesman. "There

could be another group coming up," he said, explaining that "any number

of people" could potentially be arrested.

The jail has six cells for men, four now occupied, and two for women, one of which

is occupied by Ieng Thirith, once the highest ranking woman in the Khmer Rouge.

"We have eight cells but it is up to the co-prosecutors and the co-investigating

judges how many people we arrest," said Reach Sambath, the court's press officer.

The court's mandate is to try "senior leaders and those most responsible."

But with no surviving top echelon Khmer Rouge leaders left, it is clear that the

court will next focus on other senior people who fit the description of "most

responsible."

There is no time limit for the duration of the judicial proceedings.

Since June the court has been making steady progress on the long awaited trials.

Duch was charged at the end of July, then came the arrest of Nuon Chea, followed

by Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith in early November, and finally Khieu Samphan on November

19.

"The court is on schedule," said Marcel Lemonde, the co-investigating judge.

"We hope the trials will be organized as soon as possible. Duch will be first.

I can't say there will definitely be a trial - there could be a dismissal - but it

is likely the trial will be next summer." The investigation of Duch will be

finished in the first six months of 2008, Lemonde said.

So far only Duch's case file has been officially separated from the other defendants.

The court has not said whether the other suspects will be tried separately or as

a group.

The next major development will be on December 1 when the court plans to announce

its decision on Duch's pre-trial detention appeals hearing held November 20 and 21.

Duch goes first

Duch's hearing was the first open hearing that the court has held. Wearing a short

sleeve white shirt, the former head of S-21 listened quietly while Judge Huot Vuthy

read out his case in the small courtroom.

"I appeal because I was detained for eight years, six months and 10 days without

trial," Duch said, when asked by Pre Trial Chamber presiding judge Prak Kimsan

why he was appealing.

Duch, born November 17, 1942, has been in detention since his arrest on May 10, 1999.

First he was held at Cambodia's military prison until being transferred to the hybrid

tribunal's detention center on 10 July, 2007.

During the hearing, Duch's French attorney, Francois Roux, told the pre-trial chamber

that "we have not requested that the process be annulled. We just request that

the court acknowledge the violation of the charged person's rights."

Rupert Skillbeck, head of the KRT's defense support section, said that the length

of the hearing -two days-was not surprising because it was the first public hearing,

complete with translations in French and English.

"For this quality of justice, even a simple legal argument can take two or three

days. It is going slowly - to test the evidence and arguments, to ensure the judges

have heard it all in public prior to the decision is essential, but the downside

of that is it is boring to watch," he said.

All 501 seats in the main courtroom were filled for the morning of the November 20

hearing. Another room was set aside for the media to watch the hearings on closed

circuit tv. But by afternoon, most of the observers had left, leaving mostly the

media watching.

"It is not interesting for ordinary people, but it shows a fair trial is taking

place, it shows that the legal arguments are examined before the decision is made,"

said Lemonde.

"It is important not to simplify these legal arguments to be understood,"

Lemonde said. "Then you have a show trial, which may be pleasing to watch but

the results are a disaster."

Lemonde said the response of Cambodians to the first hearing showed "what we

are doing here is not completely useless."

Foster said the court's biggest problem, as demonstrated in the hearing, was inadequate

translation services.

Anyone could attend the trial, but the rooms were filled with people who registered

in advance bookings.

"This is the first time I saw his [Duch] face as even though I was jailed at

S-21 for more than three months I never dared to look at his face then," said

Chum Mey, 77, Tuol Sleng (S-21) survivor, who came to watch.

"I did not feel angry with him. I just want him to tell the truth in front of

the court that is all. If he wants to apologize to the public then I will feel relief.

I think Duch should be detained until the trial started. If the court releases him,

I'm not afraid that he will come to kill me but the problem is the court will lose

an important witness."

Sos Min, 53 a Cambodian Muslim from Kroch Chhmar district of Kampong Cham province,

said that more than 30 of his relatives were killed during Pol Pot regime.

"I want the court to sentence him [Duch] the whole life," said Min."Our

country does not have the death sentence so spending the whole of his life in prison

is enough for him."

The fifth major arrest

The hearing overshadowed the arrest of Samphan the day before. His wife, Sar Socheath,

objected that Samphan was not allowed to check out of Calmette hospital where he

had been brought by the government for a mild stroke, but instead was detained and

then arrested.

Court officials said that they decided to arrest Samphan at Calmette after being

informed that he was in good health.

Samphan appointed two lawyers - Say Bory, the first president of the Cambodian Bar

Association when it was established in 1995, and Jacque Verges, nicknamed the "devil's

advocate," who is a member of the Paris Bar and has defended a string of notorious

clients including Nazi war crimes suspect Klaus Barbie.

Samphan's lawyers said they will appeal his pre trial detention and ask for his release

on bail.

"Lawyers always hope their client will be released but the decision must come

from the judges," said Say Bory.

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