Defense lawyers for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea and former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary on Monday called for public court hearings on the matter of corruption at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, pressing the court to determine whether its own investigations may have been tainted by graft.
In appeals lodged at the tribunal, the lawyers were also joined by the defense for former head of state Khieu Samphan, while lawyers for former Minister of Social Action Ieng Thirith were also expected to file a statement in support of the Nuon Chea appeal.
Tribunal co-investigating judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng refused last month to act on requests from all four defense teams that asked judicial investigators to obtain both the findings of a confidential UN review of kickback allegations at the court and any other information tending to indicate an organized regime of corruption at the war crimes tribunal.
The judges said at the time that this fell outside the scope of their investigation, and that the initial request by the Nuon Chea team had only speculated about the possibility that any corruption might have affected the collection and handling of evidence at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Mr You Bunleng was also among the Cambodian judges who in January threatened three of Nuon Chea’s lawyers with unspecified legal action after they sought an independent investigation of the corruption allegations through the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Andrew Ianuzzi, a US legal consultant for the Nuon Chea team, said Monday that his team had asked the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s five-judge Pre-Trial Chamber to void the order by Mr Lemonde and Mr You Bunleng,because ensuring the court’s fairness was well within the chamber’s “inherent powers.”
“I don’t know why any court would want to back itself into a corner and suggest that it doesn’t have powers that it clearly does,” Mr Ianuzzi said. “If you have information to suggest that there might be a problem, nip it in the bud. Don’t wait around for there to be an actual violation,” he said.
“We’re inviting them to be judges and step up and control their proceedings.”
In a summary of their appeal, which was posted to their independent website Monday, lawyers for Ieng Sary announced that they are also seeking the reversal of the order by judges Lemonde and You Bunleng.
“The information requested of the [co-investigating judges] fell squarely within [their] statutory jurisdiction,” lawyers Michael Karnavas and Ang Udom wrote, adding that the office of the co-investigating judges “placed form over substance in order to relieve itself from any further duty to ensure the fairness of proceedings.”
Sa Sovan, Cambodian attorney for Khieu Samphan, said Thursday that his team had also filed an appeal against the order, asking the Pre-Trial Chamber to instruct judicial investigators to grant the request for information concerning corruption allegations at the court.
Phat Pouvseang, Cambodian lawyer for Ieng Thirith, said he was too busy to talk to a reporter.