Victor Koppe, a defense counsel for Nuon Chea, on Tuesday accused the Khmer Rouge tribunal of avoiding evidence that could incriminate Prime Minister Hun Sen in crimes related to the alleged genocide of Cham Muslims.
During the second day of hearings concerning genocide charges in Case 002, the lawyer for the regime’s Brother Number Two—who is on trial alongside Khieu Samphan—blasted the Trial Chamber after he was prevented from questioning witness It Sen over claims made in a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that links the prime minister to the violent suppression of a Cham uprising in Kompong Cham province in 1975.
In “30 Years of Hun Sen: Violence, Repression, and Corruption in Cambodia,” released in January, the rights group cites evidence that Batallion 55 in the East Zone’s Sector 21—of which Mr. Hun Sen was a deputy commander—was actively involved in the massacre of Cham people on Koh Phal island in the Mekong River after a violent rebellion by the Muslim minority in 1975.
After the witness claimed he was unaware of the battalion, Mr. Koppe asked him directly about Mr. Hun Sen.
“I shall give you the name of one of its commanding officers and then I will ask you whether you know of his name: Hun Sen, the present prime minister—do you know him?” Mr. Koppe asked. The witness said that he did.
The defense lawyer then asked whether Mr. Hun Sen was involved in the Koh Phal crackdown, prompting assistant prosecutor Dale Lysak to object, saying the HRW report had not been submitted as evidence. Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne informed Mr. Koppe that the Trial Chamber had already ruled that the document was not admissible.
Mr. Koppe argued that the document was legitimate, based on his belief that it was penned by prominent Khmer Rouge academic Stephen Heder. Mr. Heder’s name does not appear on the report.
“The actual source is someone who is considered an expert for this court…and who is someone who was involved in the investigation for a long time and I have knowledge that Steve Heder is the author of this report,” Mr. Koppe said.
After the Trial Chamber upheld Mr. Lysak’s objection, the Dutch lawyer—who was warned to “correct his behavior” by tribunal President Nil Nonn last week—took aim at the court again.
“What’s happening here is an attempt to avoid evidence which may incriminate government members as perpetrators of the actual genocide, if there were any in 1975,” he said. “The defense is perfectly entitled to find out what happened in 75 and whether [current CPP Senator] Ouk Bunchhoeun and Hun Sen were involved in the killings.”
In the afternoon, the court heard from civil party Sos Ponyamin, who was himself involved in a Cham rebellion against the Khmer Rouge in Svay Kleang village, two weeks after the Koh Phal uprising and following the discovery of plans to arrest 80 Cham people.
“We knew we would be killed anyway…but we did not have any choice but opting for a revolt, so that’s what we did,” he said.