Confining Ieng Sary to a hospital is unlikely to stir public unrest but will help ensure the ailing war crimes suspect is fit to stand trial, defense lawyers asserted Thursday at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
In their final day of arguments in defense of the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, attorneys Ang Udom and Michael Karnavas also said their client was too ill to flee the court’s jurisdiction.
Delivering the bulk of the defense’s remarks, Karnavas showed ample deference to the bench but delivered some bruising admonitions to civil parties and to the investigating judges who ordered his client’s pretrial detention eight months ago.
Co-investigating judges had offered no evidence for their claim that, outside the court’s detention facility, Ieng Sary could pose a threat to public order, to witnesses or to evidence, Karnavas said.
The court should not wait “until Mr Ieng Sary is on the verge of death” before confining him to a hospital, he added.
“Having Mr Ieng Sary under protective custody is not going to cause riots,” Karnavas said, noting that for more than a decade Ieng Sary had lived openly in Cambodia without incident.
Prosecutors replied that Ieng Sary had round-the-clock medical attention from doctors working in eight-hour shifts, that Ieng Sary is well-connected internationally and that his mere presence outside the courtroom could inhibit witnesses.
Deputy Co-Prosecutor William Smith said there was no evidence that detention was putting Ieng Sary at any additional risk.
“There is no evidence whatsoever to establish or even have a suspicion of that,” he said. “For a man of 82 years of age, Mr Ieng Sary is in reasonably good health.”
The destruction of evidence need not depend on Ieng Sary’s physical mobility, Smith said, adding that the prosecution’s concern “relates to witness pressure.”
“It’s not a question of setting documents on fire or breaking into a place where documents are held and destroying them,” he said.
At the conclusion of Thursday’s hearing, Ieng Sary told judges he hoped to have closer attention from staff at the detention center.
“I don’t have people who are close to me enough to be called when I need their immediate assistance, because normally I have to press the bell one or two times to make sure I can get people to assist immediately,” Ieng Sary said.
Disagreement again arose over the scope of civil parties’ role at a tribunal bail hearing.
Civil party lawyer Kong Pisey complained that Ieng Sary had been allowed to leave the dock at the center of the courtroom and sit beside Ang Udom.
“Because of his dignity, he is not sitting in the dock, but he is now sitting next to the defense,” Kong Pisey said, before being told that judges Monday had allowed Ieng Sary out of the dock and the decision was not open to debate.
“These are not comments that are in keeping with the arguments,” Karnavas said. “Obviously, he’s allowing his emotions rather than his intellect to lead him, and he’s doing a disservice to the victims.”
In arguments, Karnavas cited two earlier Pre-Trial Chamber opinions denying requests for bail, for Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch, and for Nuon Chea, and noted that his client was not seeking bail but another form of confinement.
“They’re well reasoned, and obviously they have not been taken lightly,” he said of the earlier decisions. “I believe you are wise enough to know what is at stake here.”
As the moving party, the defense were allowed to speak both first and last this week on the subjects of their appeal, the first to be heard in the court’s larger, newly completed main courtroom.
The hearing was adjourned with no date set for a decision.