Defense lawyers for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea yesterday attempted to file new evidence with the Court of Appeal of widespread corruption at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, only to discover an investigation in the case had been quietly closed nearly two years ago.
In February 2009, the defense team appealed against an earlier municipal court decision to end an investigation into the corruption allegations. But Court of Appeal prosecutor Tan Senarong informed Nuon Chea’s lawyers yesterday that the court had closed the case in October that year, without giving notice to the complainants.
Mr Senarong said he could not explain why the case had been closed, but that Prosecutor General Ouk Savuth, currently out of the country, would provide an explanation to Nuon Chea’s lawyers via e-mail.
“It’s disappointing,” said Michiel Pestman, international co-lawyer for Nuon Chea. “This kind of corruption is a symptom of continuing government control of the legal process.”
The defense team’s new evidence came chiefly from US Embassy cables released last month by WikiLeaks. The team said the cables bolster claims that tribunal Director of Administration Sean Visoth was involved in “orchestrating a regime of organized corruption at the [tribunal],” a key allegation of the original criminal complaint. Mr Visoth has never formally been removed from his post, despite having been on leave since December 2008.
Yesterday’s request to the Court of Appeal for investigation also named tribunal Deputy Director of Administration Knut Rosandhaug, who knows of five direct witnesses in the kickbacks allegations, according to a 2008 cable. Nuon Chea’s lawyers said they had not ruled out an appeal to the Supreme Court or action under the Anti-corruption Law, as they claimed to have evidence the kickbacks were still occurring.
Court spokesman Lars Olsen yesterday declined to comment on the substance of the WikiLeaks cables, and noted that the tribunal now has an independent counselor to receive and investigate graft complaints from staff.
“Anyone who has evidence of kickbacks should submit it to the independent counselor,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy)