The Khmer Rouge tribunal will hold a public hearing Dec 8 to hear an appeal by defense lawyers seeking the unconditional release of former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan who argue that the court has failed to translate enough of the evidence against him into French.
In spite of prosecution arguments that a public hearing was not necessary, the Pre-Trial Chamber on Tuesday agreed with Khieu Samphan’s defense lawyers Jacques Verges and Sa Sovan, who asked that the public be allowed to witness arguments in the interests of justice.
The Pre-Trial Chamber in April issued a warning to Verges after he refused to participate in a bail hearing, claiming that Khieu Samphan’s prosecution should be nullified as thousands of pages of Khmer- and English-language evidence had not been translated into French.
French is both a working language of the tribunal and the only language Verges says he can read.
The lawyers last month withdrew their bail motion, but are still seeking Khieu Samphan’s release through a motion lodged in July arguing that the failure to provide translated evidence in French has left their 77-year-old client without an effective defense.
They contend that Khieu Samphan’s rights have been so seriously violated that he should go free.
The tribunal’s prosecutors argued in August that Khieu Samphan had not suffered from any lack of translations.
“[N]o abuse of process has occurred that deserves any remedy, much less an unconditional release,” Co-Prosecutors Robert Petit and Chea Leang wrote.
The tribunal’s co-investigating judges ordered in June that Khmer Rouge defendants could only have access to translations of documents that constitute “elements of proof,” including indictments, evidence and accusatory pleadings by the prosecution.
Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary have also appealed against the co-investigating judges’ translation order but have not asked to argue in open court.
In its most recent budget proposal in June, the tribunal told donors it hoped to be able to translate a maximum of 56 percent of the 4,800 pages filed with the court every month.