Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary Denied Fitness Exams

The Khmer Rouge tribunal this week refused to appoint medical experts to assess whether Bro­ther No 2 Nuon Chea and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary are psychologically fit to stand trial.

In decisions made public Wed­nesday, the court’s Pre-Trial Cham­ber said there was currently no evidence to suggest either man is incapable of understanding the charges or of participating actively in the proceedings a­gainst him.

In motions that were not op­posed by prosecutors, lawyers for Nuon Chea in April and for Ieng Sary in July asked the court to appoint medical experts to assess whether their clients were mentally, not merely physically, fit to handle detention and being investigated.

Lawyers for Nuon Chea, 82, argued that during questioning last year he had complained that his brain was “not normal” and had said in April that his thinking was “generally unclear.”

Ieng Sary, who turns 83 on Fri­day and has been repeatedly hospitalized since his arrest, was unable to sit through the first day of his bail hearing in June because of high blood pressure. His lawyers argued that he did not appear to understand arguments made on his behalf.

In previous communications with the defense, Co-Inves­tigating Jud­ges You Bunleng and Marcel Le­monde had said there was no evidence to justify seeking fitness ex­pertise. However, they also told the de­fense teams that their clients’ psychological fitness was not an issue du­ring their in­vestigations and could be decided on prior to trial.

The Pre-Trial Chamber strongly disagreed.

Contrary to the Co-Investi­gating Judges’ position, the court’s procedures “do not allow the Co-Inve­stiga­ting Judges to choose either to give a ruling as soon as possible or to give a ruling before the end of the investigation,” the judges found in a Tuesday decision concerning Ieng Sary.

“[T]he issue of a charged person’s capacity to effectively participate in the proceedings is triggered from the very moment an individual is charged with a crime before the ECCC,” they wrote.

In a separate decision Wed­nes­day, the Chamber said that in court Nuon Chea had made “collected, relevant, well-structured and comprehensive statements” which did not appear to contradict the findings of four cardiologists who found that his illnesses did not affect his mental capacities.


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