PHNOM PENH - Defense lawyers for jailed Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary say both are in declining health in detention, making it hard for them to participate in an atrocity crimes trial currently underway.
The UN-backed tribunal has scheduled hearings in March to determine their fitness and whether they can continue to take part in the trial, renewing fears that the few Khmer Rouge leaders under indictment at the court will not see justice. The court has already determined that Ieng Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, was not fit to stand trial, putting her under indefinite house arrest.
The tribunal will hear health arguments for Ieng Sary, who is 87 and was the Khmer Rouge’s foreign minister, on March 21 and for Nuon Chea, who is 86 and was the regime’s chief ideologue, the following day. Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the Trial Chamber of the court will appoint three medical experts to assess them prior to the hearings, which are being conducted at the request of the defense.
“Over the last few weeks, he has been too weak,” Nuon Chea’s lawyer, Son Arun, told VOA Khmer Thursday. In hearings, Nuon Chea cannot sit down, and he has pains in his waist. “He cannot walk and his legs shake when he sleeps, and he cannot remember [details],” Son Arun said.
Ang Udom, lawyer for Ieng Sary, said his client can understand what is happening around him, “but he cannot recall it later on.”
Both men are on trial for atrocity crimes, including genocide, alongside the regime’s nominal head of state, Khieu Samphan. Khmer Rouge survivors say they are afraid the suspects are trying to escape justice, and at the same time they fear that the slow pace of the court and the age of the defendants will lead to a failure of this case, only the court’s second.