Judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have dismissed claims from defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan that the court has no right to charge them with war crimes.
The defendants argued that because the section of the tribunal rules dealing with war crimes does not specifically exclude a statute of limitations, limits must apply. If the 1956 Cambodian penal code is applied, the statute of limitations should be 10 years, they argued.
In a ruling dated Friday and released Monday, the tribunal’s Trial Chamber dismissed the argument, saying that a statute of limitations on war crimes can’t be assumed to exist just because it is not explicitly excluded in the court’s rules.
While sections of the tribunal rules covering other crimes do explicitly rule out a statute of limitations, “the chamber is not persuaded that the absence of such reference… alone necessitates the opposite conclusion,” the Trial Chamber said in its decision. Khieu Samphan’s defense team said it would be appealing the ruling. A lawyer for Nuon Chea declined to comment.
The two Khmer Rouge leaders were convicted of crimes against humanity earlier this year and stand accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the current, second phase of their trial.