Judge Rebukes Defense Lawyers at KR Tribunal

A defense lawyer for former Democratic Kampuchea leader Nuon Chea was on Wednesday reprimanded by the head judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal after accusing an international judge of “playing a role of a prosecutor” while questioning an alleged former Tram Kak district chief on Tuesday.

Suon Visal, a national lawyer for Nuon Chea, attempted to submit a “request” to the trial chamber regarding the actions of Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne, who questioned witness Neang Ouch, alias “Ta San,” at length on Tuesday.

“[H]e used almost a half day to put questions to this witness and I observed that Judge Lavergne was playing a role of a prosecutor yesterday,” Mr. Visal said.

Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn quickly cut off the defense lawyer, telling him that he was not entitled to voice such criticism.

“The bench can put questions at any time that they may be able to do so. You are not allowed to criticize the bench,” Judge Nonn said. “I refer you to the [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] procedure and also Cambodian law, and if you are not sure, you can also refer us to any particular law [under which] you are allowed to criticize the bench.”

Mr. Visal retorted that his team would file an appeal to the Supreme Court at a later stage.

Wednesday was the third consecutive day that Mr. Ouch, a brother-in-law of former Southwest Zone commander Ta Mok, appeared as a witness at the trial of Nuon Chea and former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, who are being tried for crimes against humanity and genocide.

Mr. Ouch, who has repeatedly denied that he was the chief of Tram Kak in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, made a series of claims about life under Pol Pot’s rule including that Cham Muslims and Khmer Krom were not targeted in the model cooperative, and that teachers were “not fearful of anything.”

The witness also painted a positive picture of Ta Mok—who was known as “the Butcher” for his brutality—saying he was “always concerned” about residents of the district having enough to eat, because he was a rice farmer.

“On some occasions, he took actions, he took measures; he would get the rice from his warehouse and supply it to people,” Mr. Ouch said.

Asked by Victor Koppe, international co-lawyer for Nuon Chea, whether he recalled what Khmer Rouge officials had said about Vietnamese foreign policy during the Democratic Kampuchea period, Mr. Ouch declined to answer in detail.

“I dare not speak about this because lots of Vietnamese people are now living in Cambodia,” he said, claiming he was concerned about his personal safety.

Proceedings ended with Judge Nonn rebuking another defense lawyer, Arthur Veckern, international counsel for Khieu Samphan, who after giving his support to a prosecution request to allow a new witness then began speaking about disclosures of evidence from cases 003 and 004, which the trial chamber president pointed out had already been discussed at an earlier trial management meeting (TMM).

“We allowed you the floor last time to speak on this issue but you did not participate in that meeting,” Judge Nonn said.

“The matters were raised during the TMM, but you did not avail yourself to attend the TMM.”

Hearings continue Thursday.

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