More than 10,000 pages of documentary evidence at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have yet to be translated into French or Khmer, leaving some defendants unable to participate in ongoing judicial investigations, lawyers and officials said Thursday.
Officials said some of the court’s five Khmer Rouge defendants have ceased cooperating altogether with investigating judges while the court, which operates in French, Khmer and English, is straining to make up for the backlog in translation.
“I am French, I am not a subject of her most gracious majesty,” attorney Jacques Verges, international defender for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, said in an interview.
“I jabber English like a taxi driver,” he said.
“To defend someone from documents one understands more or less is to betray the defense, to betray the client’s trust,” he added.
Verges said interrogations planned for Thursday and today have been canceled as neither Khieu Samphan nor his lawyers will speak to the co-investigating judges as the documents in the case file are mostly in English.
Verges said the case files concerning his client, Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, former Minister of Social Action Ieng Thirith and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary contained not a single French-language page.
“I had the occasion to say that I saw in this a sign of contempt for the French language, a sign of contempt for the defense, and that we would not participate in the investigation until justice was rendered to us—that is, the 16,000 pages translated,” he said.
Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde declined to discuss the translation backlog Thursday but he also said that investigations would continue through the collection of evidence, including witness testimony.
More than one defendant at the court has stopped speaking with the office of the co-investigating judges, he added.
“Very well, we’ll organize ourselves differently,” Lemonde said.
Son Arun, Cambodian defense lawyer for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, said his client on Wednesday had met investigating judges and asked for a room to keep law books and to pray.
However the defense has sought to postpone all other meetings related to the investigation as too few documents have been translated into Khmer, he said.
“I am Cambodian and my English is not enough,” he said.
Ang Udom, Cambodian attorney for former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, declined to comment Thursday while Phat Pouv Seang, who is defending Ieng Sary’s wife, former Minister of Social Action Ieng Thirith, could not be reached.
French attorney Francois Roux, whose client is Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, said Thursday that his client was the subject of a single case file created Sept 19, meaning there were fewer documents concerning him than the other four defendants. But the lack of translated documents was nevertheless a hindrance for the defense, he said.
“It’s certain that during the investigation, this delays things,” he added.
ECCC Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis said Thursday that under its new proposed budget the court hopes to triple its current pool of translators and interpreters to 64 but that it was not possible to say how soon the translation backlog could be cleared.
“We’ve been working absolutely intensely,” she said.
“We’re proceeding in the expectation that we’re going to get funding for this because everybody has identified this as a crucial matter.”