The Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday denied defense motions to release three suspects, saying that while their fair trial rights may have been violated last month, their detentions were still legal.
Lawyers for Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, 84, Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith, 78, and head of state Khieu Samphan, 79, complained last month that pretrial judges had made defective decisions to continue holding the three, indicted in September.
As the court had ordered their continued detention but failed to provide any reasons, the defense said a maximum four-month period for detention after the indictment had lapsed but that the three remained behind bars with no legal basis.
Defense lawyers have also said they were under deadline to submit preliminary objections ahead of trial but the lack of reasoning for their appeals on similar grounds against September’s indictment had put them at an unfair disadvantage.
In a Feb 4 memo, the Pre-Trial Chamber informed the Trial Chamber that the defense appeals against September’s indictment had been voluminous and that judges had felt it better to consider them thoroughly than to rush to judgment.
The court’s Trial Chamber on Wednesday acknowledged that pretrial judges had a legal obligation to explain their rulings but said the failure to do so need not result in the “extreme remedy” of release.
“Although this initial failure to provide reasons amounts to a breach of the accuseds’ fundamental rights,” the Trial Chamber found, “automatic nullity does not follow from a failure to give reasons.”
Remedy for any violation of the rights of the accused can be awarded at the time of judgment, they found. The Trial Chamber last year awarded former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav a five-year reduction in sentence, finding that he had been illegally detained.
The Trial Chamber also found Wednesday that legal grounds for detention, including the need to protect witnesses, preserve evidence and guarantee the suspects’ presence at trial, still existed more than three years after their arrests.
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