News / Asia

Cambodia’s Nuon Chea Ruled Fit for Trial

In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Nuon Chea, listens to testimony during his trial at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 20, 2013.
In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Nuon Chea, listens to testimony during his trial at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 20, 2013.
Robert Carmichael
Judges at Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge tribunal ruled Friday that the most senior surviving member of the ultra-Maoist movement, 86-year-old Nuon Chea, is fit for trial. That decision comes days after a health hearing for the ailing defendant, and just two weeks after his co-accused, Ieng Sary, died.
 
Nuon Chea was not in court to hear the judges’ decision, but the ruling will likely come as no surprise. Although the elderly defendant suffers from a number of health complaints, including heart disease, dizziness and fatigue, two experts told the court earlier this week that he was mentally and physically capable.
 
On Friday, the president of the court, Nil Nonn, said that testimony was conclusive: Nuon Chea was fit for trial. The voice you can hear is that of the court translator.
 
“Notwithstanding the advanced age and frailty of the accused, Nuon Chea, and the accused’s precarious physical health, the recent report and testimony of the court-appointed medical experts clearly indicate that the accused remains capable of meaningful participation in his own defense,” he said.
 
Friday’s decision comes amid heightened fears that the slow-moving court will run out of defendants before it hands down any judgments.
 
Ieng Sary and his wife in November 1996 during the defection ceremony of Ieng Sary in Pailin. (Youk Chhang/Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives)Ieng Sary and his wife in November 1996 during the defection ceremony of Ieng Sary in Pailin. (Youk Chhang/Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives)
x
Ieng Sary and his wife in November 1996 during the defection ceremony of Ieng Sary in Pailin. (Youk Chhang/Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives)
Ieng Sary and his wife in November 1996 during the defection ceremony of Ieng Sary in Pailin. (Youk Chhang/Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives)
Earlier this month, the former foreign minister, Ieng Sary, died of heart failure at age 87. Last year, his widow, the former social affairs minister, Ieng Thirith, who has dementia, was ruled unfit for trial.
 
That has left just two former leaders of the Khmer Rouge to face charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Case Two: Nuon Chea and the former head of state Khieu Samphan, who is 81. They have denied all charges.
 
When the trial of the four began in late 2011, it was those very issues of age and health that led the trial chamber to divide the complex indictment into a series of mini-trials.

Mini-trial one - which is ongoing - is looking at just two sets of crimes: a torture and execution site, and the forced movement of people in 1975.
 
At the time, the judges said the bulk of the remaining charges - including crimes such as forced marriage, enslavement and genocide - would be heard later in other mini-trials.
 
Last month, the tribunal’s highest body ordered judges to reassess the decision to sever Case Two in 2011 because they failed to consult with other parties to the trial, such as the prosecution and the defense. Also of concern was the fact that the crimes within mini-trial one were not representative of the broader indictment.
 
On Friday, the trial chamber said it had looked into the decision, and announced that it would carry on as before: looking solely at one execution site and the forced movement of people.

Leakhena Nou is the executive director of ASRIC, the U.S.-based organization that represents more than 170 Cambodian-American victims.
 
Nou, who was in court Friday to hear the decision, says the ruling will disappoint ASRIC’s members. For many of them, the crimes in mini-trial one do not reflect their experiences under the Khmer Rouge.
 
“Does that mean if you don’t fall under forced movement or you weren’t a victim at the execution center that your victimization means nothing?" she asked. "So by expanding other crimes that we had mentioned - genocide and forced marriage - at least it would be more inclusive of all the victims who may have a chance to find justice. So I think on behalf of the survivors, it’s quite disappointing.”
 
Around two million people died in less than four years under the Khmer Rouge, most from execution, starvation, overwork and disease. The survivors experienced appalling hardship.
 
Forced marriage, for instance, is listed as a crime against humanity and affected an estimated 200,000 Cambodians. More than 650 of nearly 4,000 survivors registered with the tribunal for Case Two were forcibly married by the Khmer Rouge, which controlled every aspect of Cambodians’ lives.
 
Nou understands that the court is struggling to balance a multitude of issues, including a lack of funding, and that it needs to keep moving ahead to reach a resolution, but she says it is coming unfairly at the cost of the survivors.
 
“I mean this is the one chance of a lifetime for the survivors to seek justice, and if this is all the court can deliver, I really don’t think it’s a very comprehensive form of justice,” she added.
 
Also on Friday the court said that hearings would resume on April 8. They had been suspended in recent months due to the ill health of defendants and because of a strike by unpaid Cambodian staff members.

You May Like

Video Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs