ECCC: S-21 Inquiry To Close; Duch Trial Near

The investigation into alleged atrocities carried out at the Khmer Rouge detention center S-21 will end early next month, co-investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have announced.

A decision on whether to indict the center’s former director Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who has been held without trial since May 1999, will likely follow in July, the judges said in a statement released Thursday. Ac­cording to the statement, the court’s long-awaited first trial could begin late this year.

Charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, Duch has never denied directing the detention and torture center, where at least 14,000 people were tortured before they were executed.

Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng said Sunday that judges would consider prosecution and defense arguments as well as whether to add or drop charges before deciding whether to forward the case for trial.

“I hope there are no more complaints, otherwise it could delay the trial,” he said. “I want to finish the case.”

Co-investigating judges in September separated the S-21 inquiry from investigations concerning the court’s other four detainees, saying the Duch case could be completed earlier if carried out independently.

Speaking to reporters at the court last week, Duch’s international defender Francois Roux said the defense felt the S-21 investigation had proceeded properly.

Unlike defense teams for Brother No 2 Nuon Chea and ex-Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, which have actively disputed judicial measures, Roux said the Duch defense has not appealed a single decision by the co-investigating judges since opposing Duch’s pretrial detention in September.

“The only appeal we’ve lodged is against the detention order,” Roux said.

“Duch has said from the beginning that what he wanted is to be tried as quickly as possible.”

“We do what we have to do but within the framework of the investigation,” he said.

“We consider that the investigation of Duch, and indeed I say of Duch, is following its course in a normal manner at the procedural level.”

However, Duch’s defense has not been acquiescent, he said.

“We have our axis of defense, and we are maintaining it,” said Roux.

Thursday’s statement also said investigations are continuing into the court’s four other detainees—Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, ex-Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith and former head of state Khieu Samphan—all of whom are now refusing to speak to the co-investigating judges.

“They are not wrong. They have the right to remain silent,” said You Bunleng, adding that as part of widened investigations another three people have been declared civil parties to the court, bringing the total to seven.

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