With appeal proceedings finally getting underway at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday, prosecutors rejected claims from the defense teams for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan that their clients had been at the center of a show trial meant only to find them guilty.
On the first day of scheduled hearings in November, proceedings were postponed following a walkout by Nuon Chea and his team.
Son Arun, the national lawyer for Pol Pot’s former deputy, was present in court on Tuesday but instructed not to “actively participate” in the hearings, according to Doreen Chen, Nuon Chea’s senior legal consultant.
Taking a break from hearings in the second phase of Case 002 against the two senior Khmer Rouge leaders, defense attorneys and prosecutors argued the merits of the guilty verdict handed down in the first phase of the case in August 2014.
Tuesday’s hearing focused on the fairness of the proceedings, the constitutionality of the internal rules and the overall approach to evidence.
Khieu Samphan’s lawyers argued that the Trial Chamber had failed in its duty to remain impartial.
“Convicting Khieu Samphan was the goal. He had to be convicted before he passed on,” international lawyer Anta Guisse said of her 85-year-old client.
“The question is not so much on what evidence the chamber relied on, but what they did with the evidence,” she told the court. “The purpose of the trial was never really to try him, but to sentence him and convict him.”
William Smith, deputy international co-prosecutor, said that even if some errors had occurred during the trial, the overall evidence presented during the trial was “absolutely and fundamentally fair.”
“What Khieu Samphan hasn’t shown is how these errors, if they existed, compounded each other to invalidate the rights of their client,” he told the court.
Smith’s colleague, national co-prosecutor Chea Leang, described the evidence against the two appellants as “simply overwhelming.”
She dismissed repeated complaints from Nuon Chea’s defense team claiming that the court has attempted to prevent him from telling his version of events.
“He chose to remain silent, which is his right. But it is disingenuous to exert his right to remain silent, and then tell the public that he has not been able to tell his side of the story,” she said.
“The defense failed, not because the trial chamber was unfair, but rather that the evidence showed that these crimes were committed, and that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan played key roles, making them criminally responsible.”
Appeal hearings before the Supreme Court continue today.