At 8:30 am today, former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav is scheduled to exit the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s detention facility by order of Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn to confirm his health and readiness to stand trial.
The appearance will open two days of closed-door discussions to plan the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s long-awaited first trial.
Those discussions will also focus on the appearance of witnesses and the control of information during live television broadcasts of the hearing, as well as to consider possible dates for the hearing. This week’s pretrial conference, called a “trial management meeting” by the court, is not a hearing and participants will not wear court robes.
In December, Khmer Rouge tribunal prosecutors submitted a list of more than 30 witnesses for Kaing Guek Eav’s trial, which is expected to last about three months and which may conclude before any of the court’s other four regime detainees are indicted.
Francois Roux, a French defense attorney for Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, said Wednesday that at trial, the defense will oppose prosecution arguments even though Duch has broadly admitted his role in the crimes allegedly committed at the S-21 prison.
“His responsibility is not an issue since it has been recognized,” Roux said.
“Recognizing one’s responsibility does not preclude having debate on certain subjects,” he added.
Following Duch’s August 2008 indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the tribunal last month added charges of torture and murder but did not grant prosecutors’ request to assign collective responsibility to Duch and unnamed others at S-21, which prosecutors said would make Duch’s guilt more comprehensive.
As a result of the prosecution appeal, trial is expected to begin in March, though court officials had initially hoped it could start as early as September 2008.
Roux said that in other legal systems, his client’s case might have resulted in a guilty plea, an option taken by two people Roux defended before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, but which is not possible under Cambodian law.
“The disadvantage with a guilty plea is that we don’t deal with the heart of the case,” he said.
“It is right that we should hear the voice of Duch,” he added.
“Until now, many things have been said and written by historians, journalists and jurists. We have not heard the voice of Duch.”