The Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Tuesday decided to terminate proceedings against Nuon Chea, who died on August 4 at the age 93.
However, the court will review the defence team’s request to rule on the impact of the death on the trial judgement and underlying convictions as part of a bid to continue an appeal on Mr Chea’s behalf.
Last year, the former deputy secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea was convicted and sentenced to life in prison over his role during the Khmer Rouge regime’s brutal rule.
Neth Pheaktra, ECCC spokesman, on Tuesday noted that the Supreme Court Chamber released its decision in the evening after deliberations.
“The Supreme Court Chamber finds that the death of Nuon Chea has the effect of extinguishing criminal actions against him and terminates all proceedings against him before it and remains seized of Nuon Chea defence’s urgent request,” he said.
Mr Pheaktra noted that the Cambodian Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that the death of an offender extinguishes charges in criminal actions against him and this also applies to civil party proceedings against an accused at the ECCC.
“The Supreme Court Chamber is satisfied that under Cambodian law and the ECCC’s Internal Rules, Nuon Chea’s death has the effect of extinguishing criminal actions and terminating civil actions against him before this Chamber,” Mr Pheaktra added.
Neither the ECCC Law nor the Internal Rules explicitly detail the consequence of convictions entered against an appellant who has died after filing his or her notice of appeal, he said, noting that a previous ECCC decision to end proceedings against former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, who died prior to the issuance of the trial judgement, did not apply in Mr Chea’s case.
Mr Pheaktra also cited that termination of ECCC proceedings against former Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith who passed away while under judicial supervision after being found unfit to stand trial.
In both instances, the Trial Chamber found that all criminal and civil actions against the accused had been extinguished by their deaths.
Liv Sovanna, one of Mr Chea’s lawyers, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he noted at a press conference on August 4 that because the defendant had died, the ECCC’s Case 002/02 against his client was now dissolved.
“It means that Nuon Chea’s Case 002 has ended,” he said.
He noted that his client’s final wish before he died was that his appeal against the conviction should be maintained for people to know the truth.
“In the beginning of July, Mr Nuon Chea wrote a letter to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal asking that it transfer his right to appeal this case to his family and a team of lawyers to continue the process,” Mr Sovanna said.
Lao Chea Linda, Mr Chea’s daughter, declined to comment yesterday.
Last year, Mr Chea was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of executing ethnic Vietnamese and Cham minorities, committing rape, forcing marriages and prohibiting religious activities.
On August 7, 2014, Mr Chea was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment in Case 002/01.
On November 23, 2016, the Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC quashed part of his conviction, but upheld the life imprisonment sentence imposed by the Trial Chamber.
On November 16, 2018, Mr Chea was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 in Case 002/02. The Trial Chamber merged the life sentences imposed in Case 002/01 to form a single life sentence.