Pledging to act with conscientiousness and humanity, famed French attorney Jacques Verges became the second foreign lawyer to be sworn in as defense council at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday.
Verges, 82, said little to reporters following a brief morning ceremony held at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh, stating only that he was “happy to be registered…and to be able to practice my profession as a lawyer.”
With former Cambodian Bar Association President Say Bory, Verges is defending his friend, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, who was charged last month with enabling Khmer Rouge atrocities by directing the regime’s ideology.
Following Wednesday’s ceremony, Verges rejected commonplace charges that in defending notorious clients—such as former Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie or the terrorist Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal—he also defended the causes they represented.
“It’s a totally insane accusation,” Verges said in a telephone interview.
In an often-cited passage of his 1988 book “Beauty of Crime,” Verges wrote that he was aghast at victor’s justice.
“Nothing shocks me so much as ferocity against the defeated,” he wrote. “Between the dogs and the wolf, I shall always be on the side of the wolf, especially when he is wounded.”
Verges said Wednesday that defense lawyers must by definition come into contact with criminals.
“You might say to a doctor that he likes sick people,” Verges said, drawing an analogy with the medical profession.
Say Bory said that he and Verges intend to file on Friday notice of an appeal against Khieu Samphan’s detention by the tribunal.
Applications submitted by a total of seven foreign attorneys seeking to work at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have been tentatively approved by the council of the bar association, according to Ly Tayseng, the bar’s secretary-general.