A change made this week to the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s procedural rules has left the accused with narrower rights of appeal than they would have in domestic Cambodian courts, the court’s defense office said Friday.
The court also announced Friday that this week’s semiannual conference of tribunal judges had made changes to rules concerning civil party participation, a question which had previously caused rights groups to express concern.
The court, which has received nearly 1,800 victim complaints and civil party applications, can now require civil parties to form groups collectively represented by a single lawyer, a final statement on the weeklong plenary session said.
International judges at the court also expressed thanks to David Tolbert, the UN Secretary-General’s advisor on the Khmer Rouge tribunal, for “the work he has done to put the chambers on a more stable footing.”
Tolbert was broadly credited with revising the court’s budget and drafting rules on reporting irregularities. On Monday, however, the court’s Cambodian judges declined to allow Tolbert make an address the plenary.
In a statement on Friday, the court’s Defense Support Section said that at the plenary session, it had argued against limiting defendants’ rights of appeal.
Under the previous procedural rules, defendants could appeal their Trial Chamber judgments on any issue of fact or law to the Supreme Court Chamber.
The court announced on Friday that the rule now reads that such appeals must be based on errors of fact causing a miscarriage of justice or errors or law that invalidate rulings.
Richard Rogers, acting head of the Defense Support Section, said in a statement that the change “severely narrows the scope of appeal available to the accused in the event of conviction.”
However, the judges said the changes reflected practice at other war crimes courts which handle cases of similar complexity and scope.
N Sivananthan, chairman of the criminal practice committee at the Kuala Lumpur Bar, said Friday he felt that a procedural change from “issues” to “errors” of law should not be unduly restrictive for defendants.
“Generally, all appeals are based on errors of fact or law so I don’t think it’s restrictive,” he said.