The judicial investigation into the crimes against humanity allegedly committed by former S-21 Director Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, has been separated from other investigations currently underway at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, judges announced Thursday.
As a result, a decision on whether or not to indict Duch and bring him to trial may come earlier, hopefully in the first half of 2008, Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde said.
The Sept 19 decision to sever the investigations concerning crimes allegedly committed by Duch and those of which former Brother Number Two Nuon Chea stands accused is due to the comparative simplicity of the S-21 case, Lemonde said.
“The alleged crimes for Duch seem to be simpler so it seems possible to investigate them faster than the other,” he said.
Only a handful of people are known to have survived the “Tuol Sleng” detention center, where 14,000 were interrogated under torture before being executed.
Concluding the S-21 investigation sooner will allow the judges to issue a closing order, whether indictment or dismissal, without waiting for the results of other concurrent investigations by the court.
Duch’s Cambodian lawyer Kar Savuth said Thursday he was too busy to comment. A pretrial bail hearing for Duch is set for Nov 20.
In an update issued Thursday concerning their investigations, Lemonde and Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng also announced that medical examinations have given Nuon Chea a clean bill of health.
“[T]here is no medical reason which would run counter to his detention conditions or participation in the judicial investigation,” they wrote.
Nuon Chea’s defense attorney Son Arun declined to comment on the judges’ statement concerning his client’s health but said his physical condition will always be a concern given his age, 82.
Thursday’s update also said the court’s long-awaited Victims Unit “will be operational in the coming days.”
Only one person has so far come forward as a civil party to the tribunal proceedings, however the court hopes to accommodate more people as the judicial investigations progress, Helen Jarvis, the court’s chief of public affairs, said Thursday.