Prosecutors at the Khmer Rou-ge tribunal have opposed a call by the defense for the tribunal itself to investigate allegations of corruption at the court.
In a pleading filed Friday, prosecutors maintain that such an investigation would be beyond the court’s powers and that kickbacks allegedly paid by administrative staff at the court pose no threat to the impartiality of judges.
The prosecutors did, however, join four defense teams and civil party lawyers in calling for the release of a confidential UN corruption review from last year.
In April the tribunal’s co-investigating judges refused requests by lawyers for Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, former Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith and former head of State Khieu Samphan to obtain the UN review and investigate possible wrongdoing.
The judges ruled at the time that their powers are limited to investigating prosecutors’ allegations against Khmer Rouge suspects. The defense appealed against this decision to the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber. It was to this appeal that prosecutors responded on Friday, saying that the alleged payment of kickbacks to gain employment at the tribunal does not affect judges’ decision-making.
“Behavior which, although immoral or illegal, is not linked to judicial decision making, does not impinge on fair trial rights,” deputy co-prosecutors Yet Chakriya and William Smith wrote. “[T]he co-investigating judges have neither the authority nor the responsibility to investigate allegations of corruption unless they form part of their substantive investigation.”
Defense lawyers have failed to show “any personal or financial interest in the outcome of the ECCC proceedings or any other way that the court’s processes, and thereby the fair trial rights of the defendants, are adversely affected by the alleged corrupt behavior,” they said.
Lawyers for Nuon Chea have repeatedly said that if tribunal administrators, who handle evidence and are entrusted with the secrecy of investigations, are made to pay kickbacks, they may be susceptible to other improper actions.
Mr Chakriya and Mr Smith said these fears were “mere conjecture,” but also said the kickback allegations “may severely endanger this court’s reputation” and should be addressed, in part, by the release of the UN report sought by the defense.