Ieng Sary Lawyers Push for Tribunal Inquest on Government

Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary on Tu­es­day announced that they had re­newed de­fense calls for the Khmer Rouge tribu­nal to investigate comments made by government officials, which they say could amount to contempt of court.

In a statement posted to their independent website, lawyers Ang Udom and Michael Karnavas said the court’s co-investigating judges had failed to explain why they rejected a de­fense request to determine wheth­er hostile remarks from government of­ficials had encouraged high-level wit­nes­ses not to cooperate with the tribunal.

Government officials in October reacted harshly after the tribunal’s Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde summoned six senior CPP members in government and the National Assembly to give evidence in the court’s investigation of five suspects, which concluded in January.

Government spokesman and In­for­ma­tion Minister Khieu Kanha­rith said in October that the government was firmly opposed the testimony of the six.

“Except for individuals who volunteer to go, the government’s position is no,” Mr Kanharith was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency, adding that if the tribunal’s foreign staff were dissatisfied, they could “pack their clothes and go home.”

In a speech in December, Prime Min­­ister Hun Sen also warned the court to “be careful” in summoning wit­­nesses, something he said could be “a life-or-death issue.”

Marcel Lemonde and You Bun­leng, the court’s co-investigating judg­es, found in January that none of their own decisions had been improperly in­fluenced by these events and that therefore no investigation of possible contempt of court was required.

Pre-Trial Chamber judges disag­reed earlier this month, ruling that in­terference in the administration of justice can occur through threats or in­ti­mi­dation and without directly influ­enc­ing the work of the investigating judges.

In their statement on Tuesday, Mr Udom and Mr Karnavas, Ieng Sary’s defense lawyers, said they had urged the Pre-Trial Chamber to consider the necessity of an investigation for contempt of court over the remarks by government officials.

“These comments may have im­pacted on the ability or willingness of the witnesses […] to participate in in­ter­views,” the lawyers said in their statement. “This denies Mr Ieng Sary nec­essary facilities to prepare his defense.”

Officials at Mr Hun Sen’s Cabinet and government spokesmen were unavailable yesterday. However in a speech in December, the premier denied his words were improper. “I did not interfere in the court,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

 

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