Khmer Rouge Defense Teams a No Show at Meeting to End Boycott

The defense teams for Khmer Rouge tribunal defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan both stayed away from a meeting Tuesday that the court hoped would help end their boycott of the second phase of Case 002, in which their clients stand accused of genocide and other crimes.

The Trial Chamber held Tuesday’s management meeting after both defendants announced their intentions to boycott this phase of the trial on the first day of evidentiary hearings Friday.

Nuon Chea accuses the trial judges, who convicted him and Khieu Samphan on the first set of charges in August, of bias, and wants four of them replaced. Khieu Samphan says his lawyers cannot manage to simultaneously represent him in the second phase of the trial and appeal his conviction in the first.

Lawyers for both defendants confirmed that they stayed away from Tuesday’s meeting at the court, aimed at trying to settle the impasse, and would not be showing up for hearings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, either.

“As of now they are still on,” Lars Olsen, the tribunal’s legal communications officer, said of next week’s hearings.

Mr. Olsen declined to comment on what the judges would, or even could, do if the defense teams continued to boycott the trial.

Kong Sam Onn, a lawyer for Khieu Samphan, said his team did not attend Tuesday’s meeting “because there was nothing new to the management hearing…so we decided to not waste our time with that.”

How the judges choose to proceed without them, he added, “will depend on whether they want to defend the rights of the accused or ignore the rights. If they want to ignore, they can proceed.”

Though the tribunal is technically part of Cambodia’s court system, it combines elements of both domestic and international law.

Sok Sam Oeun, a prominent Cambodian lawyer not involved in the Khmer Rouge trials, said local courts can technically proceed if the defendant and his or her lawyers refuse to show, but that he was not sure how those rules would apply to the tribunal.

“In local courts, yes,” he said. “But this is a hybrid court.”

Mr. Sam Oeun suggested that the U.N. could assign a second set of lawyers to the defendants to handle the second phase of their trial if the boycott were merely a matter of workload.

In a video of a portion of Tuesday’s management meeting posted to the tribunal’s website, Trial Chamber Judge Claudia Fenz was contemplating that very idea.

She asked the court’s administrative team whether the tribunal could accommodate two sets of layers for the defendants. The administrative staff said it could.

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