Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary announced Thursday that they intend to publicize their client’s arguments via the Internet, as a lack of disclosure at the Khmer Rouge tribunal is frustrating their client’s defense.
Lawyers Michael Karnavas and Ang Udom said in a letter copied to government and UN officials, as well as donor representatives, tribunal judges and other defense teams, that the court has failed to publish their defense arguments for Ieng Sary, leaving them to be debated “behind closed doors.”
According to a copy of the letter obtained Thursday, Karnavas and Ang Udom said a Web site for their client would allow them to circumvent the court’s publishing machinery, which they said had allowed judges to suppress certain sensitive arguments.
“The current practice by the judicial chambers and co-investigating judges at the [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] of suppressing defense filings which may be embarrassing or which call into question the legitimacy and judiciousness of acts of the judges […] must be discontinued without exception,” they wrote.
“Submissions which are solely the work of the defense and which do not relate to the substance of the ongoing judicial investigation but relate solely to legal issues must be debated under the watchful eye of the public,” they added.
The defense team’s letter follows a previous letter, also widely circulated, in which they denounced the tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber, accusing judges of improperly instructing court administrators to exclude certain documents containing arguments from Ieng Sary’s defense.
Six local organizations monitoring the Khmer Rouge tribunal called on Monday for greater openness at the court, saying a lack of transparency had left the public to wonder about the progress of ongoing investigations.
Defense lawyers and observers have also complained that both decisions and pleadings are inconsistently placed on the tribunal’s Web site, or are published at a significant delay.
The court said Thursday that it publicizes documents as quickly and as fairly as it can but that this may be delayed by translation.
And the ultimate decision as to whether to release documents to the public rests with judges, who may seek to preserve the confidentiality of investigations by withholding a document, according to tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath.
The court, he added, posts documents to its Web site as soon as possible.
The court’s judges decide whether a document can be made public, and the documents are then released to public affairs and the court’s IT office, which publishes them.
This is done without undue delay or bias, he added.
“Normally we fly everything,” he said.
“We have no intention to delay any decision,” he added.
Commenting on a possible Web site for Ieng Sary, Reach Sambath said his lawyers should talk with judges.
“I think there is no reason they cannot have their own Web site. They should look at the law,” he said.
In their letter, which was also addressed to the tribunal’s Deputy Director of Administration, Knut Rosandhaug, Karnavas and Ang Udom also asked the court’s office of administration to explain what actions had been taken to investigate their allegations that the Pre-Trial Chamber had improperly kept a pleading from Ieng Sary’s case file.
Gideon Boas, professor of international criminal law at Monash University in Australia and former senior legal officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said Thursday he thought that this specific defense complaint was without merit.
Judges have the right to tell administrators to exclude documents, he said.
“The registry is an administrative aide to the judicial process,” Boas said by telephone from Thornbury, Australia.
“If the court says to the registry, ‘send this document back and remove the annex,’ nothing improper has been done,” he said.