Khmer Rouge tribunal defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, in rare addresses to the court Thursday, both offered support to their defense teams while criticizing the Trial Chamber, a day after their lawyers walked out of a hearing in protest.
In heated proceedings, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan—both on trial for charges including genocide in phase two of Case 002—told the chamber that while they had not instructed their lawyers to leave the courtroom on Wednesday, they agreed with the counsels’ decision to do so.
“Yesterday, my lawyers left the courtroom. It was not planned; they just couldn’t take any more [of] what was happening in this courtroom,” Nuon Chea said, calling the chamber’s decision to allow the prosecution to use transcripts of witness interviews in a documentary hearing as “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“Mr. President, I have followed the proceedings very closely, and I have observed that many witnesses do not speak the truth,” Pol Pot’s second-in-command continued. “If any witnesses want to tell the court, they should come here before the chamber and they should respond to questions put by my defense counsel.”
Khieu Samphan, Democratic Kampuchea’s former head of state, said that he doubted the Trial Chamber’s impartiality following his conviction for crimes against humanity in the first phase of Case 002.
“I fully support the two co-lawyers who withdrew themselves yesterday from the courtroom,” Mr. Samphan said. “I told the court already I lost trust in the Trial Chamber to find justice for me. It is because your honors have already convicted me [to] life sentences. So how could you provide any justice for me?”
Victor Koppe, Nuon Chea’s defense counsel, echoed his client’s objections, leveling criticism at the chamber’s judges before being cut off by tribunal President Nil Nonn, who had asked for an explanation of the previous day’s walkout.
Mr. Koppe called the verdict in phase one of Case 002 a “shock” and of “poor quality,” and said that Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne “had made cowardly decisions and lacked judicial integrity.”
After being instructed by Judge Nonn not to rehash old complaints, Mr. Koppe responded: “Mr. President, it is indeed true that it is your prerogative to shut me up and it is my prerogative to not say a word anymore. So it’s take it or leave it or nothing.”
Mr. Koppe remained mostly quiet for the rest of the hearing.
Civil party lead co-lawyer Marie Guiraud, noting that increasing numbers of civil parties were dying, asked the court to find a solution to the recent impasse.
“I believe we are in this courtroom for another year,” Ms. Guiraud said.
“In that case, how are we going to be able to proceed with a frustrated defense…so the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ yesterday does not break the camel’s back tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in two weeks, and in three weeks?”