Khieu Samphan’s Defense Team Referred to Bars Over Boycott

Judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have referred Khieu Sam­phan’s defense team to their respective bar associations for “unethical or unprofessional” behavior, making good on an earlier threat to report the lawyers over a protracted boycott of proceedings which the trial chamber says amounts to misconduct.

Since mid-October, the three lawyers representing Khieu Sam­phan have been boycotting the former Khmer Rouge leader’s genocide trial on instructions from their client, who has asked them to instead work on preparing his appeal—due on December 29—against a life sentence for crimes against humanity. 

In a document released Friday, the trial chamber states that the decision of the lawyers—Cambodian Kong Sam Onn and French nationals Anta Guisse and Arthur Ver­cken—to violate court orders to attend scheduled hearings “amounts to a serious and deliberate obstruction of proceedings.”

According to the judges, the boycott has forced the cancellation of 25 trial days over 10 weeks, which they call “particularly significant” in light of the age of witnesses, defendants and civil parties in the trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

“[C]ounsel’s actions have created hardships for witnesses and Civil Parties, inconvenience for the Parties and significant additional costs for the ECCC,” the judges wrote.

Guisse, international co-lawyer for Khieu Samphan, said in an email that she welcomed the trial chamber’s decision to send its grievance to the Paris Bar Association and the Paris Appeal Court.

“It will be good to have an independent body who knows exactly what are our duties and principles as independent lawyers and to whom we will be able to present our position in a serene way if they think it’s necessary,” she wrote.

“What we can see from the wording of the decision and the press release is that the Chamber could not be at the same time judge and party on the issue.”

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