Co-investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have refused requests from the prosecution and civil parties for further evaluation of crimes allegedly committed by Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch, Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde said Wednesday.
“It was not appropriate from our point of view to delay the proceedings for these requests,” Lemonde said.
Faced with five aging defendants, as well as budgetary and time constraints, the court has been pushing to start Duch’s trial in September.
In statements released Wednesday evening, judges said tribunal co-prosecutors had asked that Duch, who faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as commander of the notorious Khmer Rouge torture prison S-21, also be charged with homicide and torture.
Judges said they would not reopen the investigation to levy any additional charges, which will be finalized in their closing order.
Civil party lawyers on June 2 asked that their clients be allowed to interview Duch about the fate of their dead relatives, judges said. Judges ruled those requests were legitimate, but said they could not delay the trial.
Judges said civil parties would have the chance to put questions to Duch at trial.
Moreover, Duch’s defense lawyers have agreed to forward the victims’ requests to Duch so he can prepare a written response to their queries, they said.
Judges declined civil party and prosecutor requests on June 4; they have 30 days to file a final appeal.
Lemonde said that if prosecutors or civil parties do appeal, it could cause a “problematic” time delay.
Judges cannot officially forward the case file to prosecutors—a necessary step before final charges can be levied—until the appeals issue is resolved, Lemonde said.
Judges must forward the case file to prosecutors this week at the latest if Duch’s trial is to commence before the end of the year, judges said in their statement.
Two civil party lawyers said Wednesday that they were unaware of the co-investigating judges’ decision to reject their requests and said they remain undecided as to whether to appeal.
“My two clients wonder about their relatives, who are dead, and want to know what happened at S-21,” lawyer Yong Phanit said.
Lawyer Hong Kimsuon said one of his civil party clients signed on to the case after judges had already concluded their investigation. She wants to know what happened to her father, he said.
Duch’s co-defense attorney, Kar Savuth, said he was too busy to speak with a reporter. Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit declined to comment Wednesday.
A member of the co-prosecutor’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the prosecution has no plans to appeal.
“We are eager to get this trial started,” he said.
Lemonde said Duch has not been charged with genocide, but that charge could be levied in the second case, which is against Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan, as well as Duch.
“The question of genocide was not raised by anybody,” Lemonde said, regarding the first case against Duch.
“The question might be discussed in Case File 2. For Case File 1, nobody is saying there was genocide,” he said.
Petit declined to comment on the question of genocide, saying, “We’ll see what happens when co-investigating judges forward the charges.”
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