Bar Delays Dutch ECCC Lawyer’s Admission

The Cambodian Bar Associa­tion on Feb 1 postponed the ad­mission of a Dutch lawyer chosen to represent Nuon Chea at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, saying he had signed a legal document be­fore being sworn in as a bar member.

Victor Koppe, who submitted a brief Tuesday seeking the disqualification of Pre-Trial Chamber Judge Ney Thol, appeared for his swearing in ceremony at the Ap­peal Court on Feb 1 only to be told his application would have to be reconsidered at an unspecified date in the future.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber on Monday is to hear arguments that Nuon Chea should be released pending trial due to a procedural defect and lack of evidence justifying his detention. Koppe was scheduled to represent Nuon Chea.

“Mr Victor Koppe has signed a document as a lawyer before his swearing in before the Appeal Court,” Ly Tayseng, the bar’s secretary-general, told reporters at the Appeal Court.

“He has no capacity to sign any document or act as a lawyer be­fore that,” he said.

Ly Tayseng denied that the postponement, which was decided on Thursday, bore any relation to the content of Tuesday’s mo­tion, in which Koppe and fellow Dutch attorney Michiel Pestman accused Ney Thol of being too politically biased toward the ruling party to be a trial judge at the tribunal.

The 19-member Bar Council will have to be convened to consider whether to admit Koppe however it was not known when this meeting might occur, Ly Tayseng said.

US lawyer Michael Karnavas, chosen to represent former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, was sworn on the morning of Feb 1 without obstruction.

A Jan 15 appeal brief against Ieng Sary’s detention, made public by the court last week, bears Karnavas’ name but not his signature.

Following the announcement of the postponement by Appeal Court Presiding Judge Samreth Sophal, Koppe said he felt the decision was retribution due to his criticism of Ney Thol.

“Because of the nature of the motion for disqualification and because of the fact that the swearing in seems to be rather a formality, I decided to put my signature on that document,” Koppe said, adding that he had been a member of the Dutch bar for 18 years.

“Of course they are basing themselves on a technicality but it’s the background that is important,” he said.

Koppe said his defense colleague, lawyer Son Arun, on Friday moved the court for Koppe to be allowed to appear Monday despite the postponement of his admission to the bar.

“If it’s not honored, then we’re asking for a postponement of the entire hearing,” Koppe added.

Peter Foster, the court’s UN spokesman, said on the afternoon of Feb 1 that there were as yet no plans to postpone the hearing Monday.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defender’s Project, said the bar had a valid argument against Koppe.

“This is like a legal service,” Sok Sam Oeun said of Koppe’s signature on the motion to disqualify Ney Thol, adding that the bar’s postponement was also likely due to the content of the motion. “It is like punishment,” he added.

Defense Support Section Chief Rupert Skilbeck could not be reached Friday however international Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit said Koppe’s potential exclusion from the hearing Monday was cause for concern, whether it resulted in a postponed hearing or an absent defender.

“I am very concerned when any hearing at this court, which is so time sensitive, is delayed,” he said.

In a statement on Feb 1, the court said that week’s plenary session of judges had adopted a new code of judicial ethics, and that Supreme Court Chamber Presi­dent Kong Srim is to become the court’s “resident judge,” working fulltime with non-resident members on the court’s Judicial Ad­ministration Committee.

Related Stories

Latest News