Historian Declines to Be Questioned as KRT Expert Witness

Stephen Heder, the noted Khmer Rouge historian and author of the seminal “Seven Candidates for Prosecution: Accountability for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge,” has declined to appear before the court as an expert witness.

Mr. Heder, who served for two years as a consultant to the war crimes court before he resigned citing a “toxic atmosphere,” was originally scheduled to appear before the court in March, but his appearance was delayed due to the death of war crimes suspect and former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary.

In a May 24 email to Wendy Lobwein, coordinator of the court’s Witnesses/Experts Support Unit, Mr. Heder outlined his decision not to appear, citing the court’s Internal Rule 2, which states that he must take an oath if he “agrees to be appointed” as an expert witness.

“This makes it clear that a summonsed person whose expert opinion is sought is fully free to choose to agree or not to agree to be appointed,” Mr. Heder said in his email. “I respectfully decline to be appointed.”

“I consider this closes the matter of any court appearance by me or questioning of me by the court.”

In his email, Mr. Heder did not say why he did not want to appear at the court. Reached by email Wednesday, he declined to comment.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the largest repository of regime-era documentation, said he would have hoped Mr. Heder “would respect the court procedure,” despite having had a “sour” relationship with the court.

“I think he should put aside any personal issues with the tribunal that he used to work for and look into how he can contribute to help millions of lives waiting for justice.”

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