Arguments concluded at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Feb 8 over whether to release Brother No 2 Nuon Chea, who watched as civil parties accused him and his former regime of responsibility in the deaths of nearly two million people.
The Pre-Trial Chamber announced that, in addition to considering the defendant’s provisional release, it would also rule on defense objections to civil parties’ presence at the hearings, which had been hailed by the court Feb 4 as a first in international criminal law.
Nuon Chea rose to his feet as the hearings concluded to ask judges to use “their conscience and wisdom” in deciding on his appeal.
“The solidarity and national reconciliation and development of the country have been improving gradually, but there remain difficulties in the country, especially the difficulties influenced by the foreign countries that hinder the growth of Cambodia,” he said. “The triangle strategy and the win-win policy of the Royal Government of Cambodia, with the leadership of Samdech Akkar Maha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen…is leading the country to peace and safety.”
But he sat impassively through the civil party presentations, motionless except for the tapping of his sandaled left foot.
In an address to the court, civil party Theary Seng, who is also executive director of the Center for Social Development, said Nuon Chea bore responsibility for “a hell regime” which jailed her and her brother as infants and took the lives of both their parents.
Nuon Chea’s denials of responsibility were not to be believed, she added.
“Who was in charge then in the loss of my father, my mother and relatives, and their parents and relatives?” she asked.
Three civil party attorneys also argued that the grounds for detention had been met and that, if released, Nuon Chea could intimidate witnesses, destroy evidence flee or be in danger himself.
Defense laywers Son Arun and Victor Koppe reiterated arguments that Nuon Chea was too proud to flee, too old to fight, had long lived openly without incident and had little evidence to destroy.
Debate broke out briefly when Son Arun said the civil party lawyers should have to reveal the names of all their clients, a question the judges said would be discussed in a closed session.
“The investigation as a whole is confidential, therefore so is the names of victims,” said international Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit.
Koppe added following the hearings that at a brief private meeting of the parties on the afternoon of Feb 8, he had screened video of Nuon Chea’s Sept 19 interrogation to show that his client had not properly waived his right to a lawyer.
“It’s one thing to read from a paper how things went but it’s something else to actually see it,” he said.
The Chamber is to give two days’ notice before the date on which it announces its decisions.