Defense lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary on Thursday sought to argue that matters of corruption and official antagonism could end the court’s existence and therefore could require their client’s release but the arguments were quickly silenced by the pretrial judges.
Defense lawyer Michael Karnavas cited remarks by Prime Min-
ister Hun Sen, who said Tuesday that he would prefer that the Khmer Rouge tribunal fail rather than widen its investigations as UN prosecutors are seeking, as well as a recent report by German lawmakers who cited a UN officer as claiming that the tribunal’s Director of Administration Sean Visoth had been identified in a UN review of kickback allegations.
Ieng Sary, who was found too
ill to attend a bail hearing in February, appeared in the courtroom Thursday but left after two hours, claiming he was unwell. Defense lawyers said he had permitted them to continue arguing in his absence.
Karnavas said that threats the court’s existence, including the possibility of a UN withdrawal and an impasse over continued funding for the Cambodian side of the court, could prematurely end Ieng Sary’s investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity, which he said was already unacceptably slow.
“If the investigative judges are not conducting their investigating in a due-diligent manner and if the institution is likely not to be in existence six months or a year from now then I daresay with all due respect this is a consideration for the Pre-Trial Chamber to take in determining whether an individual should continue to be detained,” Karnavas said.
Karnavas noted that two defense teams have asked the court’s co-investigating judges to investigate kickback allegations reported to the UN last year and that this would be an added burden on the court, slowing the pace of investigations.
The five-judge panel sided with prosecutors who said the defense had improperly raised a matter outside their original bail motion lodged in December against the extension of Ieng Sary’s pretrial detention into a second year.
“There will be no discussion about issues of budget and issues of corruption. They now form the basis of other applications which are before this court,” Judge Rowan Downing said.
In their motion in December, Karnavas and Cambodian defense lawyer Ang Udom argued that Ieng Sary should be released as a slow investigation had failed to unearth enough evidence to justify his renewed detention, and that house arrest could also ensure Ieng Sary’s safety, the preservation of evidence and his appearance at trial.
Karnavas maintained on Thursday that Hun Sen’s remarks and the request for a kickbacks inquiry were part of arguments concerning the pace of investigations.
Ang Udom began Thursday’s hearing by saying that provisionally releasing Ieng Sary would pose no risk to public order, to his personal safety, to evidence or that he would flee.
“There is simply insufficient evidence that provisionally releasing Ieng Sary as an individual would pose an actual risk to any of these objectives,” he said.
Senior Assistant Prosecutor Anees Ahmed noted that one person, Kaing Guek Eav, had been indicted for crimes occurring at S-21, facts which are also alleged against Ieng Sary, meaning that the case against him had grown “both in volume and in gravity.”
“At least one set of crime scenes on which this person is being charged has resulted in an indictment before this honorable court,” said Ahmed, noting that investigators had written 38 rogatory letters resulting in 56 reports since Ieng Sary’s pretrial detention was first upheld in October.
The case file involving Ieng Sary has swelled to 450 binders of documents from an original 150 in 2007, he said, noting that a request for house arrest had once already been rejected by the Pre-Trial Chamber.
“No cause arises for any other form of detention than detention in this facility,” he said.