A Cambodian human rights coalition on Sunday called on a UN-backed tribunal to make sure the recently detained Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea gets proper healthcare so he is able to stand trial. It said it was concerned that 81-year-old Nuon Chea, arrested Wednesday and charged with crimes against humanity, could die before answering for his role in one of the 20th century’s worst genocides.
The Cambodia Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 23 organisations, called on the tribunal to form a special team of international doctors to look after the most senior surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge.
“CHRAC notes that the presence of Nuon Chea to be able to appear before (the tribunal) would be extremely and necessarily important in order to seek justice for all Cambodian dead and alive victims,” the group said in a statement.
“CHRAC wishes to call upon (the tribunal) for both Cambodian and UN sides to pay much more attention for his health care… to ensure that he would be absolutely able to stand before the co-investigating judges,” it added.
The group raised the example of Ta Mok, a top Khmer Rouge military commander who died last year in Phnom Penh, where he had been imprisoned since 1999.
Nuon Chea was last week brought from his home in northwest Cambodia to Phnom Penh, where he was put in the tribunal’s custody.
There are concerns about his health. He has already suffered a stroke and is the oldest of the communist movement’s former top officials likely to stand trial for atrocities committed nearly 30 years ago.
Nuon Chea, known in the regime’s circles as “Brother Number Two”, was allegedly a key architect of the execution policies of the Khmer Rouge, which is blamed for the deaths of up to two million people between 1975 and 1979.
He has denied the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, saying he was never in a position to order any of the deaths that occurred under the Khmer Rouge.
Public trials at the tribunal are expected in 2008.