Delay in Release of Nuon Chea’s Verdicts Comes Under Fire

Posted by khmernews on March 14, 2008

Koeut Samrach

The delay in the release of the verdicts on appeal against provisional detention by Nuon Chea, former president of the National Assembly of the Khmer Rouge regime, has been heavily criticized as it has lasted for almost one month already. Moreover, the procedures of Nuon Chea’s hearings were very complicated. It is not understood why the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s co-judges drag their heels on Nuon Chea’s appeal ruling.
Recently, Son Arun, co-defence lawyer for Nuon Chea, has expressed his disappointment over the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal that has delayed releasing his client’s detention hearings. Son Arun claimed that he was deeply disappointed with the Khmer Rouge tribunal that has delayed the ruling on whether Nuon Chea is released on bail. “Although the Khmer Rouge tribunal decides to continue Nuon Chea’s detention, the tribunal should have transparency and not keep Nuon Chea wait for this long,” he said.

In response to Son Arun, Khmer Rouge Tribunal Spokesman Reach Sambath claimed that it was because of problems with legal procedures. “In Duch’s appeal hearings, there were no lawyers of the Civil Parties to represent the victims,” pointed out Reach Sambath, adding that awaiting the briefs of the lawyers for the Civil Parties are completely finished that the verdicts will be released.

“There is a big, complicated issue regarding the Civil Parties. Thus, they are asked to submit briefs and on March 6, they will be sent back. So, it might be in the second or third week of March that the verdicts are read out. There are two verdicts to be ruled, not only one,” claimed Reach Sambath.

Observers criticized that Reach Sambath’s assertion was made only to conceal the slow work of the co-judges and co-prosecutors of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which seemed to be intentional to delay releasing Nuon Chea’s verdicts.

It should be remembered that the hearings of Nuon Chea, former Brother Number 2 of the Khmer Rouge regime, against his provisional detention was held on February 8, 2008. However, up to now the verdicts have yet to be released. It is questioned what the co-judges and co-prosecutors are doing and why Nuon Chea’s verdicts against provisional detention take months to be issued. In contrast, the expense seems to be made very fast and the tribunal is expected to face budgetary crisis in the near future.

Recently, US Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) released its report stating that the request of the UN to appoint a special advisor, lack of transparency, distribution of documents, and audit of the expense on the process of the Khmer Rouge trial are the hot issues for the Khmer Rouge tribunal. In the 18-page report written in English, OSJI claimed that it has reviewed the legal procedures and facing problems of the tribunal in detail for the past two months.

The report said that the request to appoint a special advisor to provide additional leadership and expertise to the administration of the ECCC was turned down by the government. OSJI wrote that the establishment of such as post is essential if the administrative, budgetary, and leadership problems facing the ECCC are to be adequately addressed. “The court’s lack of transparency and its failure to provide access to documents continues to be a problem, interfering with the ability of the public and the international community to understand and evaluate the work of the court,” the report continued, adding the tribunal is seeking approximately $113.7 million in addition to the original budget of $56.3 million for the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders in five years.

The report also claimed that the court has not announced a contingency plan to deal with the likelihood of budget shortfalls before the fundraising effort is complete.

Robert Varenik, acting executive director of New York-based OSJI, said that the Khmer Rouge tribunal is a partner of the international community, and that it needs not only to make Cambodians believe in it, but also to build confidence among donors.

“The tribunal will need to convince donors to make a “significant” investment, while the court is expected to run out of funds in April,” said Robert Varenik. To do so, the courts will need to show “the greatest possible transparency,” he added.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal may begin the trial of the five former Khmer Rouge leaders being detained at the tribunal detention facility in July 2008. However, the tribunal comes under fire for the corruption in which it is alleged that its staff and judges have paid kickbacks to the government’s officials. For this reason, officials of civil society organizations insist that clear conditions should be made and corruption allegations should be cleared away first before new funds are injected.

Unofficial Translation
-Extracted from Moneaksekar Khmer, vol. 15, #3405, Thursday, March 6, 2008.


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