Having discharged his French defense lawyer for lack of confidence, former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav would prefer to replace him with a Chinese lawyer with a knowledge of communism, according to Cambodian defense lawyer Kar Savuth.
In a Khmer-language broadcast by Radio France Internationale, Mr Savuth also said on Friday that the rupture with Francois Roux–who had since 2007 defended the accused, best known as Duch–was due to a divergence between the defense lawyers on whether to follow domestic or international law.
In the final moments of trial in November, Mr Savuth and Mr Roux offered differing arguments, with Mr Savuth and Duch arguing for an acquittal rather than a reduced sentence.
“China is a communist country and the Pol Pot regime was communist,” Mr Savuth said in Friday’s radio interview. “Communist law is contradictory to free law. This is Mr Duch’s view.”
The change in lawyers will not occur before the verdict, which is to be handed down in two weeks, he said.
“If we cannot find a foreigner, there will only be the Khmer one. He wants a Chinese. If not Chinese, he will not agree. So besides Chinese, there can only be Khmer,” said Mr Savuth.
Mr Savuth also said that, the divergence between himself and Mr Roux at trial was due to the fact that Mr Savuth was arguing Cambodian law, under which he said Duch was not liable to prosecution because he was only following orders.
“But under international law, he is not acquitted since the order-carrier is also liable to prosecution,” said Mr Savuth. “We each carry out our duties.”
Tribunal officials say the Duch verdict is already in the process of being drafted and translated, and that Friday’s change in counsel is unlikely to have any effect on the outcome of the trial.
A permanent member of the UN Security Council, the Chinese government was an ally of the Khmer Rouge and opposes the existence of the tribunal.
According to Anne Heindel, a legal adviser to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the dismissal was unlikely to help in any later appeal claiming that Mr Roux, whose performance was widely admired, had been ineffective.
“It’s creating drama just before the verdict that I would have thought it was better not to have,” she said.