ECCC ends ban on communication among defendants in pretrial detention

[JURIST] The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] last Friday ended [decision, PDF] the segregation of five defendants currently in pretrial detention. The decision, released to the public on Wednesday, was a response to an appeal filed by defendant Nuon Chea [PBS backgrounder; JURIST news archive], who argued that the prison conditions were too restrictive. In May 2008, the Pre-Trial Chamber approved the “strict separation between the detainees,” taking away “the right to communicate among themselves.” The judges at that time relied on ECCC Internal Rule 55 [text, PDF], which gives judges the jurisdiction to limit contact between the detainees in the interest of the investigation. They also cited the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST news archive] holding in Prosecutor v. Katanga and Chui, where the ICC ruled:

[Measures] to restrict the communication and the contact...constitute an important restriction of the rights provided for by the detention regime set forth in the Regulations and the RoR [Regulations of the Registry], and therefore they can be imposed if the requirements of necessity and proportionality are met.
In overturning the segregation order, the Pre-Trial Chamber found that the “potential for prejudicial collusion” was now negligible, and “that there can be no reason related to investigation purposes justifying that contacts between [Chea and the four others] be restricted.” The Phnom Penh Post has more.

The ECCC was established by law [text as amended 2004, PDF] in 2001 to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials. The Khmer Rouge is generally believed to be responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] between 1975 and 1979. No top Khmer Rouge officials have yet faced trial. In August 2007, the ECCC brought its first charges against Kaing Khek Iev [TrialWatch profile; JURIST report], who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. Former Khmer Rouge official Nuon Chea is awaiting trial [JURIST report] for charges [statement, PDF] of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

 

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