Judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have rejected efforts by civil party lawyers to seek an investigation of the assets of four suspects charged by the court who have claimed they are too poor to pay for their own defense.
Currently charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, the former Social Action Minister, were big spenders prior to their 2007 arrests, traveling internationally and living in a large Phnom Penh house.
All of the court’s five current detainees were deemed indigent by the defense support section, which did not count the value of their homes in determining the value of assets that could be used to pay for their defense.
In a ruling published Wednesday, the tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber found that civil party requests to investigate four of the defendants’ finances were outside the scope of the recently completed investigation and arose from a misunderstanding of reparations that the court may award.
The appeal by the civil parties was based on “a mistaken contention that civil parties and victims shall receive reparations,” the judges found.
“The civil parties have a right to seek reparations, not a guarantee of the receipt of reparations.”
Anne Heindel, legal adviser to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said the decision spoke to a fundamental problem with how the ECCC handles the issue of reparations, which can only be taken from of the assets of convicted suspects.
“In the Duch case, [judges] essentially said they couldn’t offer many reparations because…they lack authority to get funds from anyone but the accused, and now they’re saying, ‘We can’t look in advance to see whether these accused in Case 002 have any assets,'” she said
“If the whole scheme of victim participation is based on the assets of the accused, then it doesn’t mean anything if there will be no assets of the accused, so the whole thing is just symbolic,” Ms Heindel said.