Thought to be Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's right-hand man, Nuon Chea's bail hearing was adjourned after he complained of not having adequate representation and asked for more time.
An estimated 17,000 people died on this "Killing Field" under the Khmer Rouge
Nuon Chea, “Brother Number Two”, stood before the judges of the genocide tribunal for the first time on Monday. The former Khmer Rouge ideologist -- and Pol Pot’s deputy -- is one of five suspects accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He personally called for the hearing to appeal for bail but the hearing was adjourned after his Cambodian lawyer asked for more time. For now, the 81-year-old will remain in detention.
One of Nuon Chea’s two Dutch defence lawyers has not yet received accreditation to attend the tribunal. Therefore, saying he was not represented adequately, Nuon Chea called for an adjournment.
No real impact
The Canadian Robert Petit, one of the prosecuting lawyers, said the adjournment would not really make a difference. “The investigation itself is still on-going so it doesn’t really impact on that process.”
“It would be a whole different matter and we would have a whole different position if, for example, this was at the hearing itself where witnesses were available and evidence was to be heard. At this point, it’s an appeal in detention. He insisted himself that he wanted to wait for counsel and that’s what was decided.”
But the victims of the Khmer Rouge and their representatives at the tribunal have been angered by the debate about accrediting Nuon Chea’s Dutch defence lawyers. Outside the courtroom, one of them, Dok Sinun, said it was high time that the whole matter finally enter its decisive phase.
“It’s going very slowly,” she complained. “Maybe it’s necessary so as to get justice. But I don’t think they should be forgiven. They shouldn’t be released on bail.”
The 56-year-old herself survived but many of her family members did not.
2 million deaths
Almost two million people died during the Khmer Rouge’s brutal regime, which lasted from 1975 to 1979 -- through execution, starvation and forced labour.
Nuon Chea and the other former Khmer Rouge leaders are old and ill. There is doubt whether they’ll ever have to pay for their crimes.
The tribunal is already under time pressure -- not least because of financial reasons. “The Cambodian budget is due to expire at the end of March so we have only two more months of funding for the Cambodian side,” explained the tribunal's head of public affairs, Helen Jarvis.
“The United Nations budget is expected to last till later in the year,” Jarvis continued. “However, we are confident that, given the progress of the court and the fact that within four months after the introductory submission, all five suspects were detained and charged, the court is moving forward really very smoothly. We can say a lot of accomplishments have been made so we don’t expect that it will stop for lack of budget.”
The Cambodian media are taking a great interest in the Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal. Although press freedom is not guaranteed in Cambodia, the tribunal seems to be one of the few subjects where no restrictions have been imposed.