Documents held in evidence against former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary must be made available to him in his own language or his fundamental rights as a defendant will continue to be denied, his defense lawyers have argued.
In a letter to the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s coinvestigating judges Tuesday, Ang Udom and Michael Karnavas said standing requests for the judges to produce Khmer-language versions of prosecution evidence have not been answered.
Court officials say they are struggling under the burden of working in the tribunal’s three official languages, while defense lawyers have seized on the issue.
French lawyer Jacques Verges halted a bail hearing last month for former head of state Khieu Samphan, saying he could not consult English and Khmer-language documents against his client.
In their letter Tuesday, the lawyers said that, unlike Verges, they are seeking translations into the language of the defendant himself, which are “indispensable if he is to fully exercise his right to participate in his own defense.”
Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng said Thursday that most of the documents in question are already in Khmer, but declined to answer detailed questions.
While the coinvestigating judges are responsible for the translations, the lawyers said that the prosecution should not have submitted its fully translated 110-page introductory submission, which outlines allegations, if the approximately 16,000 pages of supporting evidence had not also been translated first.
International Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit said Thursday that prosecution evidence was properly filed and legible to the defense.
“The introductory submission and the supporting material were filed in either of two of the three official languages,” Petit wrote in an
“If counsels believe that it was improperly filed, then they have only to make their argument in a motion for annulment, which they have not done.”
“As far as I’m aware, the charged person can read Khmer as can his national counsel, and the international counsel can read English,” he added.
Kong Sophy, the court’s chief translator, said Thursday that precise information about which documents now exist in which language is not yet available as the court is upgrading its document management system.
“We are trying to identify how many are in Khmer, how many are in French, how many are in English and how many are pending translation,” he said.
Donors to the court have requested this information, which should be available in the next two weeks, he said.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)