Defense lawyers for Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea have formally asked the Khmer Rouge tribunal to evaluate whether their clients are fit to stand trial.
Ieng Thirith’s lawyer, Phat Pouv Seang, also said he is concerned that his client may be mentally unfit to stand trial, based on a recent medical exam that concluded she had “mental troubles.”
Attorney Ang Udom said Monday that his client, Ieng Sary, who has been hospitalized repeatedly this year, has been too sick to help in the preparation of his defense.
“To prepare the case, we need help from the client,” he said.
Ang Udom said that on Friday, the defense team asked the tribunal’s co-investigating judges to appoint an expert to assess whether Ieng Sary is fit to face the court.
Phat Pouv Seang said Monday that former Khmer Rouge Minister of Social Action Ieng Thirith was admitted to Calmette Hospital on Feb 20 after spitting up blood.
“They concluded she has problems with mental health,” he said, though he declined to release the medical report.
He said he did not know how serious her mental condition was but urged the court to have her evaluated further.
“If her mental health is 70 to 80 percent damaged, she should be released for treatment,” he said.
Phat Pouv Seang said he plans to again argue that Ieng Thirith should be released from detention because of her frail mental state at her pretrial detention hearing, anticipated for mid-May.
On Dec 20, Nuon Chea’s attorneys also formally asked co-investigating judges to have Nuon Chea’s fitness to stand trial evaluated. So far, there has been no response, they said.
“For some reason it’s taken months. I don’t know why,” defense attorney Michiel Pestman said.
Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde declined to comment, referring all questions to the public affairs office.
Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis said she could not comment on specifics, but said the court had done medical evaluations of all defendants upon detention and offers on going, watchful medical care to all detainees.
But defense attorneys maintain those medical evaluations didn’t go far enough.
Pestman called the court’s exams “incomplete, inconclusive and not independent.”
He declined to discuss the specifics of Nuon Chea’s condition, but said, “We think he’s not fit to stand trial.”
As for what could happen if a defendant is deemed unfit for trial, Pestman said: “It could definitely entail a bar to the prosecution. There’s also no point if someone is not fit to stand trial to keep him in prison.”
Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit declined to comment in detail, citing confidentiality.
Speaking generally, he said that under Cambodian and international legal norms, if a person is unfit to stand trial, there isn’t a trial.
But, he added, fitness is not necessarily a black-and-white question. “Some ‘unfitness’ can be temporary and addressed by medication or treatment,” he said.
Khieu Samphan’s lawyer Say Bory said Monday his client is fine and he hasn’t asked the court to evaluate his fitness.
“His health is strong. He just gets dizzy a little bit and cold,” he said.
Kar Savuth, who represents Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch, said he was too busy to speak with a reporter Monday.