Nuon Chea’s Lawyers Move To Disqualify Judge

Military Court President Ney Thol should be disqualified from any and all proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, lawyers for for­mer Brother Number Two Nuon Chea have argued in advance of their client’s appeal hearing Monday.

Ney Thol, who sits in the tribunal’s Pretrial Chamber, is scheduled to hear arguments on Monday from the lawyers that Nuon Chea should be released pending trial. Their motion to disqualify was filed Tuesday.

Ney Thol said by telephone on Wednesday that he had not yet read the brief in support of the disqualification motion.

“I will read it and consider it later,” he said, declining to comment further.

Ney Thol recused himself from the Pretrial Chamber’s previous deliberations on the continued pretrial detention of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who had been detained by the Military Court for several years without trial.

In their criticism of Ney Thol, Nuon Chea’s Dutch lawyers Mi­chiel Pestman and Victor Koppe did not mince words.

As an RCAF officer, Ney Thol is part of an organization that once engaged in combat with the Khmer Rouge and remains subject to government control, according to a co­py of the brief received Wednesday.

Furthermore, “his apparent willingness to inappropriately employ his judicial power at the behest of the Cambodian People’s Party ob­jectively gives rise to the appearance of bias,” the lawyers wrote.

In convicting SRP lawmaker Cheam Channy in 2005, former Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh in 1998, and in presiding over the excessive detention of Kaing Guek Eav, Ney Thol, a member of the CPP central committee, had served the ruling party’s political ends, they wrote.

“It follows that a reasonable ob­server would be objectively justified in concluding that Judge Ney’s primary judicial impetus is not the in­terests of justice but rather his political fealty to the CPP,” they wrote.

Tribunal rules give Ney Thol 10 days to respond and allow him to re­main on the bench pending a de­ci­sion for which there is no apparent time limit.

Pretrial Chamber President Prak Kimsan said Wednesday the Cham­ber would seek to avoid overlap between the disqualification procedure and Nuon Chea’s appeal hearing Monday.

“The chamber will seek a means to avoid that,” Prak Kimsan said, adding that the chamber’s judges hoped to find time to confer on the matter Thursday despite the court’s ongoing plenary session.

He declined to comment on the content of the appeal, which he said has not been translated into Khmer.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that Ney Thol’s political and professional affiliations needn’t bar him from serving at the tribunal.

“It is not a problem. The most im­portant thing is to follow the law,” he said, adding that Ney Thol is one of five judges on the panel.

“There are many judges to make decisions. He alone cannot cause a problem,” Cheam Yeap said.

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