In a letter sent Wednesday to government and UN officials and donor country representatives, lawyers for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary denounced the judges of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber, saying they had illegitimately prevented the court from accepting written arguments concerning a judgment that is due today.
The five-judge panel has repeatedly refused to allow Ieng Sary’s lawyers to argue against the use of the legal doctrine known as joint criminal enterprise. The Chamber is today to rule on a prosecution appeal that seeks to insert charges under the doctrine into the August indictment of former S-21 prison chairman Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch.
Lawyers for all five of the court’s Khmer Rouge defendants fear the ruling in the Duch case could establish the doctrine’s applicability at the tribunal, and that it will be used to hold the defendants collectively responsible for crimes, as prosecutors have asked.
In their letter, Ieng Sary’s lawyers Michael Karnavas and Ang Udom said the Pre-Trial Chamber had ruled on their requests to be heard, but had kept their written arguments out of the court record and in so doing improperly interfered in the work of court administrators.
“This interference directly violates the right of Mr Ieng Sary to a fair and transparent judicial process,” the lawyers wrote.
“Indeed if such interference is not immediately remedied and further recurrence prevented, it will fundamentally compromise the right to a fair trial of all persons brought before the ECCC,” they wrote.
The letter was copied to UN Undersecretary-General for Legal Affairs Patricia O’Brien, UN Economic and Social Council President Leo Merores, Cambodian Cabinet Minister Sok An, the Dutch, Australian, US and Japanese ambassadors, as well as the Chamber’s judges, the court’s co-investigating judges and prosecutors, as well as all defense and civil party lawyers.
Karnavas and Ang Udom claim they filed two requests for the court to reconsider its refusal to allow them to argue—but that their substantial arguments were part of annexes that were selectively rejected, and now cannot be consulted as part of the court record.
Both UN court spokesman Peter Foster and Chief of Public Affairs Helen Jarvis declined to comment Thursday.