With evidence mounting against them and given the gravity of their alleged crimes, former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife, former Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith, may remain in detention until Nov 12, 2009, according to decisions made public Monday by the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Defense teams for the married couple have announced their intention to appeal their clients’ continued pretrial detentions, which were renewed Nov 10 for a further year.
Following the August indictment of former S-21 prison chairman Kaing Guek Eav, who turned 66 on Monday, the court’s co-investigating judges, Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng, have marked the anniversaries of the spate of arrests they carried out in late 2007 by renewing the detentions of Nuon Chea, 82, in September and Ieng Sary, 83, and Ieng Thirith, 76, last week.
The detention order for former head of state Khieu Samphan, 77, expires Wednesday.
The court’s Pre-Trial Chamber upheld the first year of Ieng Sary’s detention last month and did likewise for Ieng Thirith in July. Tribunals trying international crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity have in all but a handful of cases refused to ever grant provisional release.
However, amid complaints that the court is understaffed and proceeding sluggishly, defense lawyers have argued that the burden for justifying continued detention gets heavier with the passage of time. In objections made last month, lawyers Phat Pouv Seang and Dianna Ellis, who represent Ieng Thirith, said the investigations “have not been conducted diligently,” according to her detention renewal order.
Unlike the two-page order renewing Nuon Chea’s detention on Sept 16, Judges Lemonde and You Bunleng gave detailed reasons for continuing to hold Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, saying that no exculpatory evidence has been uncovered against either defendant and that evidence continues to be collected after a year of detention.
Both suspects have refused to speak to judicial investigators, which is their right, the judges noted, “but it is not conducive to speedy proceedings.”
Their detention “cannot be considered excessive in view of the scope of the investigations,” they wrote in renewing Ieng Sary’s detention, citing witness testimony implicating him in Foreign Ministry purges. “[T]he co-investigating judges have collected a large body of evidence.”