The public has 30 days to weigh in on the legality of the eight-year prison detention without trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, and will be invited to attend hearings regarding his possible release from prison, a Khmer Rouge tribunal judge said Tuesday.
The tribunal is not required to make such hearings public, but Prak Kimsan, president of the tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber, said Pre-Trial Chamber judges had decided unanimously to open the hearings on Duch’s detention to the public. “I, my Cambodian and international colleagues all wish for the hearing to be public,” Prak Kimsan said.
Kaing Guek Eav was charged July 31 with crimes against humanity for overseeing the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 torture prison and transferred to a prison at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
On August 23, Duch’s lawyers appealed the tribunal’s decision to detain him on the grounds that his years of detention without trial were illegal. Legal observers have long warned that Duch’s long incarceration by the Military Court could complicate his prosecution because it may have violated international legal norms.
In their detention order, ECCC judges said Duch was detained because of the gravity of the crimes he is accused of committing, and because he was a flight risk and his personal safety could be in danger were he released.
Prak Kimsan said it was now up to the Pre-Trial Chamber to decide whether to release or continue Duch’s detention and that a public statement has been issued calling on interested members of the public to submit their opinions on the matter. Interested groups or individuals can submit written amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs of no longer than 30 pages to the Office of the Pre-Trial Chamber until Oct 4, he said.
Prak Kimsan said a date had not yet been set for the hearing, but added: “Duch is in pretrial detention so the work must be accelerated. Under the law, we must respect human rights.”
Kar Savuth, one of Duch’s lawyers, said that he too wanted the hearing on his client’s detention to be public. “Cambodians want to know,” he said.
Hisham Mousar, who has been monitoring the ECCC for rights group Adhoc, welcomed the tribunal’s decision to open its process to the public. “It’s important not to let the judges decide on the issue in secrecy because the people would want to know—if it is the case—why judges release Mr Duch,” he said. Adhoc plans to submit a brief on the matter to the ECCC, he added.