Arguments in ECCC Seem To Favor Civil Party

Nearly three weeks after the Khmer Rouge tribunal silenced a civil party seeking to address an appeal hearing, the balance of submitted legal arguments appears to favor her right to speak.

Civil party Theary Seng asked the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber on July 4 to reconsider a decision denying her the right to speak in person during an appeal hearing for former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary. All responses were due by Monday, but it was unclear whether any defense teams had responded.

Of all the world’s war crimes courts, the Extraordinary Cham­bers in the Courts of Cambodia has allowed civil parties the greatest degree of participation. However, the court has not yet fully decided exactly what this means in practice.

The tribunal does not currently pay the legal fees of lawyers representing civil parties. Thirteen of the 14 civil parties at the court are represented by lawyers, however there are 1,636 victim complaints and pending civil party applications, Victims Unit chief Keat Bophal said Monday.

Sarah Thomas, a legal fellow at the Documentation Center of Cam­bodia, said Monday that she had argued that only civil parties without lawyers should be able to speak.

“It would significantly slow down the proceedings if all the civil parties were allowed to speak,” she said.

In a July 17 pleading released Monday, Theary Seng said she was not seeking to have the hearing reopened, only a decision recognizing her right to speak.

“If the civil party without representation is denied the right to participate, this puts her at a serious disadvantage relative to the other parties and is fundamentally unfair,” she wrote.

In a joint filing Thursday, civil party lawyers said that fairness and law argued for personal participation by civil parties. Prosecutors have argued that Theary Seng’s July 4 application should be dismissed, as a court can only reconsider a ruling in light of new relevant facts, of which prosecutors say there are none.

However, prosecutors said the court may wish of its own accord to issue “guidelines” on civil party participation.

Victims “more than anybody else can inform the court of the extent of trauma, disturbance to public order, influencing of victims and witnesses, destruction of evidence; issues that are directly relevant to the pretrial proceedings,” they wrote in a July 17 pleading released Monday.

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