Khieu Samphan Defense Returns to Graft Argument at ECCC

For the second day in a row, the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday rebuffed defense attempts to bring allegations of corruption and political interference into the courtroom at a hearing on a suspect’s provisional release.

At a bail hearing before the Pre-Trial Chamber, Jacques Verges, the French defense attorney for former head of state Khieu Sam-phan, was immediately stopped short as he tried to mention pending defense requests for the court itself to investigate kickback allegations at the tribunal.

Lawyers for former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary on Thursday made identical remarks and were silenced as well.

The tribunal’s co-Investigating Judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng also announced Friday that alleged corruption at the tribunal was outside their jurisdiction and that they could not act on requests filed by three defense teams seeking the disclosure of a confidential UN review of allegations made last year by Cambo-dian staff.

Lawyers for Khmer Rouge re-gime suspects Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan said Friday they intended to appeal.

Pre-Trial Chamber Judge Row-an Downing on Friday interrupted Verges as he attempted to discuss corruption, saying that Verges was speaking out of turn.

Noting that Prime Minister Hun Sen this week expressed the wish that the tribunal itself should fail, Verges agreed to remain silent.

“If you feel that we must not talk of corruption, I shall not impose this debate on you,” Verges said. “I shall be silent since the head of state who is your host has publicly declared that he desires your de-parture, morally turning you into squatters,” he added. “But I shall also be silent because it is not customary to shoot at ambulances and the wounded. Nor is it customary to shoot at hearses and the dying.”

The defense had been due to argue two separate appeals claiming that the failure by the tribunal to translate evidence into French constituted such a grave abuse of legal procedural that Khieu Sam-phan should be unconditionally released.

In February the chamber rejected identical defense arguments made in a similar appeal, finding that the defense had sufficient access to French language translations of evidentiary documents.

International Senior Assistant Prosecutor Vincent de Wilde d’Est-amel called Friday for the court to put an end what he said were Ver-ges’ disruptive tactics.

“You heard the international co-lawyer this morning in a few murderous sentences explicitly and fundamentally challenge the existence of the ECCC, its legitimacy, the length of its duration,” he said of Verges.

“This strategy, on which the in-ternational lawyer has based all of his career, consists in willfully disrupting and delaying the proceedings so that no trial worthy of the name can be concluded within a reasonable timeframe,” he added.

“Can this chamber afford to continue to tolerate such a strategy before the ECCC? Can it be tolerated further when impunity is coming to an end when charged persons are aging? When victims have been waiting for so long for justice to be done?”

Given that by Friday’s hearing the question of translation was es-sentially a dead letter, the defense argued instead that grounds for Khieu Samphan’s continued pretrial detention no longer existed.

All five of the court’s detainees are currently seeking provisional release, and, with the exception of former S-21 Chairman Kaing Gu-ek Eav, whose trial began in Feb-ruary, they have argued that neither evidence nor social conditions justify their detention.

Prosecutors maintained that the alleged crimes of the regime—be-lieved to have resulted in as many as 2.2 million deaths—are so grave, and evidence so strong, and the risk of unrest and flight from justice so great, that bail should not be granted.

Noting that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Rwanda has never granted bail, De Wilde d’Estmael said Friday that public participation in the judi-

cial process was fragile, and that it could be hindered by the release

of Khieu Samphan, whose personal security would also be put in jeopardy.

“The vast majority of witnesses are ordinary people who may be intimidated by the process of justice. These are people who have suffered trauma. These are people who are used to being quiet be-cause of the impunity that has reigned, and these are people who may be afraid to give testimony for fear of reprisals,” he said. “Witness protection is a fledgling concept. Violence is a fact of life, and access to weapons is easy.”

As had the prosecution at Thurs-day’s hearing, De Wilde d’Estmael cited a survey released in January by the University of California, Berkeley, according to which 85 percent of Cambodians who lived during Democratic Kampuchea felt hatred toward its leaders, 38 percent wanted to take revenge personally and 39 percent said they would do so if possible.

In their order dated Friday, Le-monde and You Bunleng said that agreeing to investigate corruption at the tribunal would amount to an “abuse of power.”

“Of course, the investigating judges must guarantee that the ongoing judicial proceedings are irreproachable in every way, especially by ensuring that all confirmed acts that interfere with the administration of justice are sanctioned,” they wrote.

“Nevertheless, nothing in the request justifies any affirmation that we are currently faced with such acts, since it limits itself to raising speculation as to hypothetical negative effects of any form of corruption,” they concluded.

 

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