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Aging Khmer Rouge Leaders Still Fit to Stand Trial, Assessment Says


Nuon Chea, 86, and Khieu Samphan, 83, are facing atrocities crimes charges, including genocide, for their leadership roles in the regime.

Nuon Chea, 86, and Khieu Samphan, 83, are facing atrocities crimes charges, including genocide, for their leadership roles in the regime.

Two aging defendants at the Khmer Rouge tribunal are fit enough to stand trial, physicians at the UN-backed court say.

Nuon Chea, 86, and Khieu Samphan, 83, are facing atrocities crimes charges, including genocide, for their leadership roles in the regime.

The assessments by court doctors, obtained by VOA Khmer, are the result of medical inspections earlier this month.

“It is our opinion that Nuon Chea did currently have the ability to testify,” the doctors wrote in one assessment. “He explained that, in the court, the prosecution and defense would ask questions. He expressed the view that he would have to be present in court because he wanted to see people directly and said he had no concerns about attending in person.”

In their assessment of Khieu Samphan, the doctors said he has “no physical health problems that would affect [his] ability to stand trial.”

The March 26 reports say both men appear able to speak, write and hear without assistance. No mental problems, such as Alzheimer’s, were detected.

Both men have already undergone one of two phases of their atrocity crimes trial. A verdict in that phase, officially called Case 002/1, is expected later this year. They are now preparing for the second and final stage of the trial, Case 002/2.

Kong Sam Onn, a lawyer for Khieu Samphan, said he has asked the court to reconsider the health finding. The first phase of the trial meant many hearings each week, and he has asked hearings be limited to one to three per week.

“There’s just too much for him, as an old person,” Kong Sam Onn said. “He is not only going to spend time with the trials, but also with his lawyers…. So he doesn’t have time to rest, when he works so consistently.”

Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the assessments for both men were completed in late March.

“The health of the defendants is very important,” he said. “We hope that they will be able to participate in the announcement of a verdict for Case 002/1, in mid-June, and also can take part in the trials of Case 002/2 at an appropriate time.”

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