Lawyers for Brother No 2 Nuon Chea on Thursday filed an appeal with the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber seeking an independent expert to examine their client’s fitness to stand trial.
Last month, the tribunal’s co-investigating judges ruled against a previous defense motion seeking an independent medical review, saying the issue of Nuon Chea’s fitness to stand trial “does not arise at this stage” as his indictment is not imminent.
In its appeal Thursday to overturn that decision, the defense called the co-investigating judges’ stance “inexplicable,” saying Nuon Chea needed to be fit to understand pleadings in his case and give instructions to his lawyers.
In repeated complaints to tribunal staff, Nuon Chea has said “his thinking is generally unclear” and told judicial investigators in September that his “brain [is] not normal,” according to the defense appeal, which also states that he suffers from heart ailments and has appeared to doze in open court.
“I am upset that the lawyers filed the appeal. In the proceedings, [Nuon Chea] has the right to remain silent,” You Bunleng said. “We want to question him about the charges, but we don’t force [him].”
Anne Heindel, a legal adviser to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Thursday that because most international tribunals do not practice civil law, the question of a defendant’s fitness during judicial investigation is likely uncharted legal territory.
However, demonstrating that a defendant is so impaired as to be unable to follow court proceedings is “a very high standard,” she said.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ruled earlier this month that Jovica Stanisic, former head of the Serbian State Security Service, is fit to stand trial despite suffering from severe depression, osteoporosis and kidney stones.