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Duch Appeal One Test of Many for Tribunal Chamber, Expert Says

An appeal by Cambodia's notorious torture chief is the most public test of a complicated chamber in the Khmer Rouge tribunal. But it likely won't be the only one, a legal expert said Thursday.

The request by Kaing Khek Iev, alias Duch, to be released ahead of an impending trial, is a special case and the pre-trial chamber decisions surrounding it should be open to the public, shedding light on the tribunal chamber, said Hisham Mousar, a legal expert for the rights group Adhoc and a close observer of the tribunal.

The rules say pre-trial chamber hearings are to be held behind closed doors, but in a case like Duch's, there are exceptions, he said.

Many people know he was in charge of the Tuol Sleng torture center, said Mousar, who was a guest Thursday on "Hello VOA."

As many as 16,000 people died at the torture center, their bodies dumped in mass graves on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

But Duch's appeal is just one case the pre-trial chamber will have to review, as trials of top Khmer Rouge leaders materialize.

The pre-trial chamber is used when investigators and prosecutors have conflict over whether a case should be tried. Victims and lawyers complaints over the outcome of a case go through this chamber, as well. The Khmer Rouge tribunal has no appeals chamber.

The pre-trial chamber of the special tribunal courts is tasked with solving disputes from defendants, victims and other judges. Five jurists—three Cambodian and two international—must come up with a "super majority" of 4 to 1 votes to pass any decision.

If a decision does not reach a super-majority, a case must move forward.

The pre-trial could face other challenges.

Ieng Sary, a top leader of the regime who was granted amnesty by former king Norodom Sihanouk, has long been thought a candidate for the tribunal.

The law stipulates clearly that jurists can review his case, Mousar said.

During the Khmer Rouge era, many instances occurred that could be used to try him, he said.

Mousar said a recent row over whether Sihanouk should lose his immunity in trial proceedings was moot; the constitution prohibits it.