In the Spotlight: Ney Thol
by Stan Starygin
Judge Ney Thol is an army general and has served as president of the only military court in Cambodia. His presidency spanned over the period of detention of Kaing Guev Iev ('Duch') regarding the legality of which an appeal has been lodged in the ECCC's Pre-Trial Chamber. Judge Ney Thol submitted a letter of recusal to the Pre-Trial Chamber, just a short two weeks before the hearing on said appeal.
Ney Thol's becoming a part of the ECCC sparked a controversy at the time of judicial appointments with a Bangkok-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher calling him an official with "a bad record on human rights" citing a case in which Ney Thol had allegedly denied to call the accused's witnesses and cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses (the Cheam Channy case; see below). Prime Minister Hun Sen responded to this criticism by robustly defending Ney Thol's nomination "likening his critics to perverted sex-crazed animals, among other things".
In 1998, Ney Thol presided over the case of Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the leader of FUNCINPEC, which resulted in a sentence bearing a 30-year term of imprisonment for weapons smuggling and conspiring with outlawed Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Prince Norodom Ranariddh did not serve a single day of this sentence as it as annulled by a pardon issued by then King Norodom Sihanouk.
Ney Thol later presided over another sedition case -- this time against parliamentarian Cheam Channy -- sentencing the accused to seven years in prison for attempting to form an armed group to topple the government. Ney Thol's conduct of this trial garnered a wave of criticism from a variety of international watchdogs.
Ney Thol was never formally trained as a lawyer or a judge, but, by his own admission, has "gone through many short courses [of legal training] inside and outside the country" since 1987, the year of his appointment to the bench.