Khmer Rouge tribunal judges have concluded their investigation into Kaing Guek Eav’s alleged crimes at S-21 prison, paving the way for a trial to begin around October, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia said in a Friday statement.
“The procedure should not be delayed unless the parties now seek new acts of investigation,” Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde said by e-mail last week.
Co-investigating judges on May 15 announced the formal close of the investigation against Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, following a flurry of interviews with witnesses and with Duch himself, judges said.
The co-investigating judges hope to issue a closing order by the end of July, which will detail whether and on what charges Duch, who is being held at the ECCC on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, should be indicted.
“I wish that everyone should do the necessary at the Extraordinary Chambers so that the “S-21 trial” may open by the month of October 2008 at the latest,” Duch’s French attorney Francois Roux said by e-mail last week.
“I do not imagine that the Office of the Co-Prosecutors would take responsibility for slowing this timeframe and thus delaying the start of trial. The Defense for its part is preparing to be ready for the month of October,” he added.
Though prosecutors initially asked that Duch be investigated for crimes including genocide, that charge has not yet been levied.
Lemonde said by e-mail that “Duch is not under investigation for genocide,” adding that “the decision concerning him in no way prejudices what shall be decided for the other accused as part of a distinct case file.”
In September 2007, co-investigating judges decided to separate Duch’s alleged crimes at S-21 from the rest of the investigation, in an effort to bring him to trial as soon as possible.
Duch, however, is also part of the second case against Nuon Chea, known as the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologue; Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister; Ieng Thirith, the former minister of social affairs; and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state.
Technically, Duch could face two trials, said Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit.
“S-21 is part of a much larger, broader practice that’s the core of the other case file,” Petit said, adding: “The facts of S-21 and Duch’s responsibility for these specific facts have been separated in the first case file.”
Unlike Duch, who has spoken extensively with co-investigating judges, the other suspects have remained silent, forcing co-investigating judges to focus their inquiry on witness testimony and “crime base work,” judges said in their Friday statement. They added that they plan to interview Duch soon in connection with the second case file.
Prosecutors and the defense have until the end of May to ask the judges to undertake any additional investigation into S-21 crimes they deem necessary, though investigating judges seem eager to expedite the process.
Roux declined to say whether the Duch defense team would request additional inquiry.
Petit on Friday said “it’s too early to tell” whether prosecutors would ask judges to do additional work on the S-21 case.
Prosecutors are now reviewing the evidence in the S-21 case file, “a significant amount” of which had been added in the prior 8 days, he said.
Petit declined to comment on whether Duch should be charged with genocide, either for his alleged crimes at S-21 or his role in a broader criminal enterprise of the Khmer Rouge.
“We’re going to make our final submission, and then the judges will decide,” he said.
Hisham Mousar, who has been monitoring the tribunal for rights group Adhoc, on Sunday praised the court for its progress on the Duch case. “Now we have to move forward with the other cases,” he said, adding: “The conclusion of the investigation is a good signal to the donors to signify that the ECCC, and the international and national judges are committing to moving forward.”
The court is now seeking additional funds, initially estimated at $114 million, to continue its work through 2011.
Though Khmer Rouge atrocities have long been referred to as a “genocide,” the legal definition of the term is strict, requiring an intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, religious, or racial group.
Mousar said such intent might be hard to prove at S-21 and result in undue delay; moreover, he said victims have not asked for the charge to be brought.
“Chum Mey and Bou Meng and the other victims in the Duch case, don’t care a lot about the genocide charge,” said Mousar.
He added that last month Adhoc gave the court’s victims unit “three or four” complaints from Cham Muslims, which accuse Khmer Rouge leadership of genocide.
“It’s too late to have a genocide charge against Mr Duch,” he said. “But we hope the genocide charge can appear in the second case.”