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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid