New Hearings Set Wheels of KR Trial in Motion

On Wednesday, with one week to go before a verdict is rendered in the first phase of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Case 002, the initial hearings are opening into the expansive case’s second trial.

These proceedings—which will focus primarily on scheduling, proposals for reparations to victims, and the status of legal objections—set in motion a trial years in the making, which began with the arrest in 2007 of Nuon Chea, Pol Pot’s deputy, and former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan.

Having already considered the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh and two waves of forced transfers and the executions of Lon Nol soldiers at a site in Pursat province, the next phase of the case is significantly broader. The upcoming trial will include criminal accusations of genocide, internal purges and rape, as well as crime sites such as S-21 prison, the Trapeang Thma dam worksite, the Tram Kok cooperative and the Kompong Chhnang Airport construction site.

Because Case 002/02 comprises significantly more allegations than Case 002/01, it is likely to be meaningful to a larger number of people, according to court monitor Heather Ryan, who works with the Open Society Justice Initiative.

“The Case 002/02 trial has the potential to be even more interesting and meaningful to Cambodians than the first Case 002 trial, because it will cover a range of crimes that impacted a huge number of victims and that have become seared in the minds of Cambodians as the core of the Khmer Rouge atrocities,” Ms. Ryan said in an email.

“These include war crimes and crimes against humanity in the form of forced labor, torture, killing and starvation associated with work camps and security centers, genocide against minority groups, and the crime against humanity of forced marriage. To give Cambodians a fuller sense of justice it is critical that these crimes be aired in a public trial.”

Katrina Natale, a legal consultant for the lawyers representing civil parties in the case, said this next phase is important for her clients “because it has a much broader scope [than the first phase] and addresses allegations that they can all relate to.”

“Even if it doesn’t address specific sites where civil parties experienced crimes, it still covers a large number of crimes and in that way, there is quite a lot of interest to civil parties, from working conditions to genocide of the Chams and Vietnamese. From that perspective, it’s quite interesting,” she said.

Nuon Chea’s international defense lawyer, Victor Koppe, said the next trial promises to be “much more interesting than the previous one.”

“This will be an opportunity to correct the dominant historical narrative,” Mr. Koppe said on Monday.

“There are many aspects [Nuon Chea] is keen to give his view on, with regard to what happened, especially at the opening evidence hearings. We can’t wait to start.”

He said Nuon Chea, who turned 88 earlier this month and spent some time in the hospital last year, plans to be present.

“He is keen to find out what is going to happen,” Mr. Koppe said. “He’s good.”

Kong Sam Onn, the national defense lawyer for Khieu Samphan, who turned 83 on Monday, said his team will be asking the court to consider half-day hearings for up to three days per week, “since he is not stable after long hours of sitting in court.”

Wednesday’s proceedings precede the verdict in the first trial by a week—something that has been a bone of contention for Khieu Samphan’s legal team, which has argued that the second phase of Case 002 should not have started until a final judgment is reached in the first phase.

“I think this is a kind of flip-flop,” Mr. Sam Onn said.

In any case, the Supreme Court Chamber on Tuesday dismissed an appeal made by Khieu Samphan, which had called for the severance of the case for this trial to be annulled.

Khieu Samphan’s lawyers had asked the panel of judges to clarify when their client would be tried on all the charges contained within the indictment, which was split into separate trials in 2011. This second phase of the case does not include all of these remaining charges.

The Supreme Court Chamber temporarily stayed remaining charges not scheduled to be heard in the second phase, but ordered the Trial Chamber to find a way to properly address these extra charges, either by convening a second trial panel or working to pass a rule amendment that would allow them to be dismissed.

A start date has yet to be set for the evidentiary hearings in Case 002/02. A verdict in Case 002/01 will be rendered on August 7.

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