The Military Court has renewed war crimes charges against former Tuol Sleng prison director Kaing Kek Iev, better known by his Khmer Rouge-era nom de guerre Duch, allowing for his detention in military prison for a ninth year, officials said Monday.
Duch, a likely candidate for prosecution in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, has been held without trial since his capture in 1999.
The charges, which were renewed for the second time Wednesday, will allow for Duch’s continued detention until November 2008, by which time he must either be tried or released, said Military Court Director Ney Thol, who is also slated as a judge in the ECCC’s pre-trial chamber.
“Our court is just following our procedures because Duch is at our place and the ECCC has not charged him,” Ney Thol said. “[Duch] is waiting for the ECCC to start work.”
Between 14,000 and 16,000 people are believed to have been interrogated at Tuol Sleng under torture before being executed.
Under Cambodian law, pre-trial detainees can be held for a maximum of six months unless charged with genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity, in which case detention cannot exceed three years and must be renewed annually.
Since his capture, Duch has successively been charged with all three crimes and Wednesday’s renewal will be the last one, Ney Thol said. “If there are no other charges and no trial, he will be free,” he said.
Under the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cambodia is a state party, everyone charged with crimes has the right to be tried “without undue delay.” However, Ney Thol said Duch’s detention was not an international matter.
Rupert Skilbeck, principal defender in the ECCC’s Defense Support Section, said that while Duch is not currently within the tribunal’s jurisdiction, his lengthy detention may become the subject of argument at the ECCC.
“Pre-trial detention of eight years raises serious questions of international law which would have to be argued before the ECCC if the case comes before this court.”