Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Nuon Chea appeal dropped after death

Khmer Rouge Brother No. 2 Nuon Chea’s appeal of his genocide conviction has been dropped after he died in hospital aged 93 on Sunday, his lawyer said.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia held the press conference about Mr Chea’s passing away last night at Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh.

Liv Sovanna, Chea’s lawyer, said at a press conference that because the defendant had died, the ECCC’s Case 002/02 was dissolved for Chea.

“It means that Nuon Chea’s Case 002 has ended,” Sovanna said.

He noted that his client had maintained as his final goal before he died to appeal the conviction and tell all people the truth.

“At 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,” Sovanna said.

Chea had suspected he was seriously ill and as hard as he worked, he would not be able to continue his appeal, Sovanna said.

“Unfortunately, he passed away as he thought,” he said. “This is very regretful.”

Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, who was convicted of genocide alongside Chea in Case 002/02, is expected to continue his appeal.

Chea Leang, co-national prosecutor of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, said Chea had been old and frail when he died, suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease and other illnesses.

He primarily died due to his heart and lung conditions, but his veins and kidneys were also diseased and he was suspected of having prostate cancer, Leang said.

Chea’s family had requested that there was no need for an autopsy because he was suffering from chronic illnesses, Leang said.

Chea’s body was returned early Monday morning to Pailin province, where his family will hold a funeral.

Lao Chea Linda, 52, Chea’s daughter, said she was busy preparing for her father’s funeral.

“My father’s body drove from Phnom Penh at 5 a.m. and the body arrived at the pagoda in Pailin province at around 12 p.m. on Monday,” Chea Linda said.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Chea was survived by his wife, Ly Kim Seng; three daughters, Ly Bunthoeun, Lao Chea Linda and Nuon Chornita; and a son, Nuon Say.

Chea’s birth name was Lao Kim Rorn, which he later changed to Laodi and finally Nuon Chea, Chhang said. But “Knouch” was the name his mother loved the most, he added.

Chea was the third son in his family, and was born July 7, 1926 at Wat Kor village in Wat Kor commune in Battambang province’s Sangke district.

Chhang noted that Chea had never admitted to his crimes.

“He did a lot of bad things,” Chhang said. “He never confessed to killing the Cambodian people.”

“He tried to shirk responsibility before the law, but finally he passed away,” he added.

“He was born just the same as the rest of us, but power made him a cruel leader and he killed his own people.”

Chea was a member of the Communist Party of Kampuchea’s standing and central committees. He was also chairman of the Democratic Kampuchea People’s Assembly.

He was apprehended on September 19, 2007 and put on trial before the ECCC on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and breaches of the Geneva Convention.

He was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment for Case 002/01 on August 7, 2014.

On November 23, 2016, the Supreme Court Chamber quashed part of the convictions but affirmed the life imprisonment imposed by the Trial Chamber.

On November 16, 2018, he was convicted for a second case, Case 002/02, for genocide, crimes against humanity and breaches of the Geneva Convention alongside Samphan. The Trial Chamber merged the life sentences imposed in Case 002/01 and Case 002/02 to form a single life sentence against him.

The ECCC, a joint establishment between the Cambodian government and the United Nations, convicted three senior leaders of the brutal regime and sentenced them to life imprisonment, including Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who commanded the S-21 torture center.

Ieng Sary, the former foreign affairs minister, and his wife Ieng Thirith, former social affairs minister, died in 2013 and 2015 while the regime’s leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 before he could be prosecuted.