Lawyers for Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary announced Friday they were seeking the disqualification of Judge Nil Nonn, president of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Trial Chamber, as a result of a 2002 television interview in which he reportedly admitted to accepting bribes.
Ieng Sary was one of four defendants indicted last week for his role in an alleged conspiracy that resulted in the deaths of as many as 2 million Cambodians. He is expected to appear before the Trial Chamber next year.
Currently president of Siem Reap Provincial Court, Judge Nonn said yesterday he was unaware of the defense motions and denied that he had accepted bribes.
“I haven’t received any bribes,” he said by telephone. “Maybe [the defense] are not happy with me but they can do this according to the law.”
In statements posted Friday to their independent website, defense lawyers Michael Karnavas and Ang Udom said remarks attributed to Judge Nonn on the website of a US television documentary and in The Cambodia Daily indicated that he had admitted to accepting bribes.
On the website of the public television documentary “Pol Pot’s Shadow,” Judge Nonn, then president of Battambang Provincial Court, was quoted in paraphrase: “He admits that yes, he does take bribes, of course, but only after a case is over.”
After his appointment to the Khmer Rouge tribunal in 2006, Judge Nonn denied this. However Amanda Pike, the filmmaker, provided additional statements to The Daily by e-mail, insisting that the judge had been accurately quoted.
“If after a trial people feel grateful to me and give me something, that’s normal. I don’t refuse it,” Ms Pike quoted Judge Nonn as saying.
“Living conditions these days are difficult for me. But if you are talking about pressuring people for bribes–no.”
In Friday’s announcements, the defense said they were calling for Judge Nonn’s disqualification and also asking that the court investigate his alleged acceptance of bribes by ordering Ms Pike to provide video recordings of her interviews, which she had so far refused to do voluntarily.
The Daily last week also declined to cooperate with a defense request for information. John Keker, the high-profile San Francisco trial attorney representing Ms Pike, did not immediately respond to requests for comment yesterday.
“Tolerating a judge to remain on the bench who has a sustained history of effectively taking bribes is unquestionably a form of corruption,” the defense said in a summary of their motions posted Friday to their website
“Mr Ieng Sary has a fundamental right to be tried by an impartial tribunal and that right must not be violated,” the summary said. “Judge Nil Nonn must be disqualified due to the appearance of bias created by the report that he admitted accepting bribes.”
Since 2007, defense requests to disqualify Pre-Trial Chamber Judge Ney Thol and Co-Investigating Judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng for alleged bias have all been dismissed.
Reach Sambath, chief of public affairs at the tribunal, declined to comment yesterday on the defense motion but said the court as a whole and its Cambodian judicial officers were devoted to the cause of justice.
“They have a serious commitment to their jobs,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)