The Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday threw out an appeal seeking the unconditional release of former head of state Khieu Samphan and said his French lawyer Jacques Verges had ample access to translated evidence.
The unanimous decision by the five-judge Pre-Trial Chamber rebuffed the sole argument repeatedly made by Verges in over a year of raucous appearances at the tribunal, during which he has halted cooperation with investigators and risked being censured after refusing to participate in a bail hearing.
Verges, and Cambodian lawyer Sa Sovan, are due to make essentially the same arguments before the same judges at a public hearing next week.
Reading from a summary of the decision, Pre-Trial Chamber President Prak Kimsan said the defense motion was inadmissible because it sought to overturn a June ruling by judicial investigators that is not open to appeal.
Reacting to repeated defense requests for the comprehensive translation of documents, Co-Investigating Judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng in June ruled that defendants and their lawyers only have the right to translations of indictments, accusatory pleadings by prosecutors, “elements of proof,” footnotes, document indices, as well as all pleadings and orders.
Defense teams for both Khieu Samphan and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary have appealed against that translation order, and Prak Kimsan said that a ruling on the Ieng Sary appeal would be made public by Friday evening.
As it has at other tribunals, the question of translation has bedeviled court administrators and caused budget planners in 2009 to call for the court’s pool of interpreters and translators to be doubled to 64.
However, the chamber ruled Friday that Khieu Samphan’s right to a fair trial had not suffered from a lack of translations and cited the decisions of international tribunals that denied requests for complete translation of all documents.
“The Pre-Trial Chamber notes that the right for the co-lawyers to have access to the case file during the investigation does not mean that all the material collected should automatically be translated into their language,” said Prak Kimsan.
“The Pre-Trial Chamber considers that the defense team is in a position to identify the material that could be exculpatory and then request translation of these specific documents.”
After the ruling was handed down, international Deputy Co-Prosecutor William Smith said the court had properly assessed the situation of the defense.
“They’ve supported the proposition that defense counsel have a duty to cooperate with the court and to cooperate amongst each other in collaborating and preparing defenses of cases of this size and of this complexity,” he said.
So Sovan noted after the hearing that the Pre-Trial Chamber had taken eight months to reject an appeal on essentially technical grounds.
“In the current Cambodian judicial system, when there is an appeal against an act of investigation…the investigative chamber must rule in two weeks,” he said, adding that he would consult with Verges about what to do next.
“Today changes nothing. We will continue our struggle on another plane. Even without the absence of translations, there is the irregularity of detention, because Mr Khieu Samphan lived peacefully in Pailin, and no one threatened him and he never fled.”