With fresh witness statements from crime scenes in Pursat and Kompong Cham provinces, the Khmer Rouge tribunal Monday finally denied bail to former Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, who had sought provisional release during his second year of detention.
Fellow detainee Kaing Guek Eav, former chairman of the Khmer Rouge secret police, also told investigators in November that Nuon Chea, 82, threatened him in order to suppress evidence implicating senior leaders of the regime, the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber found in its unanimous ruling.
In seeking his arrest in 2007, prosecutors alleged that Nuon Chea, the second-highest ranking member of the Khmer Rouge government, who is now charged with war crimes and crimes against hu-manity, had developed and directed Communist Party policy and held authority over people responsible for crimes carried out nationwide.
Nuon Chea and his four fellow detainees are jointly responsible for crimes that resulted in as many as 2.2 million deaths nationwide, prosecutors contend.
Only in a handful of cases have modern tribunals ever granted bail to suspects charged with crimes of such scope and complexity.
With an order of a single page, judicial investigators in September extended Nuon Chea’s pretrial detention for a second year.
While faulting investigators for “insufficient reasoning,” the Pre-Trial Chamber on Monday still upheld the order, finding that well-founded reasons to believe that Nuon Chea may have committed the alleged crimes continue to exist.
In seeking bail in October, defense lawyers Michiel Pestman, Victor Koppe and Son Arun argued that only Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, had implicated Nuon Chea in any criminal activity. They also said the tribunal’s investigating judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng had failed to show that conditions justifying Nuon Chea’s detention continued to exist.
Prosecutors responded in January, arguing that the defense had conceded that evidence indicates that Nuon Chea may be responsible for “some of the crimes” specified by prosecutors, and that no exculpatory evidence had yet been found.
In their ruling on Monday, the Pre-Trial Chamber found that, since the October appeal, testimony has continued to indicate that Nuon Chea allegedly had a “leading role” in giving orders to staff at detention centers B-20, K-17 and also at the Thkaul Office, where underfed, high-level prisoners performed forced labor.
According to information on file at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the Thkaul Office was located in Pursat province’s Bakan district. B-20 was in Kompong Cham province and K-17 was a military prison in Mondolkiri province.
“One of these witnesses has personally seen how in the forest, inside the Thkaul Office compound, the militia beat five families with clubs and killed them,” Monday’s decision said.
“The charged person also allegedly convened meetings to prepare plans to purge internal enemies like the soldiers and commandoes with connections to the Sangkum Reastr Niyum and Lon Nol era or that were accused of resisting the Khmer Rouge regime in general.”
Monday’s decision also held that Nuon Chea’s continued detention was necessary to protect evidence, preserve public order, to prevent Nuon Chea from fleeing the court and to protect him.