The defense for Nuon Chea, the senior-most surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge regime, called yesterday on UN human rights rapporteurs to address allegations of political tampering at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, something the lawyers said the court itself could not do.
With three others, Nuon Chea was indicted in September for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other crimes resulting in up to 2.2 million deaths. Defense lawyers have railed against perceived interference in the work of the court by the government, which has publicly instructed the court to curtail both the number of trials and the summoning of witnesses.
Two pretrial judges in September found merit in such arguments, saying that public government warnings against the testimony of six senior CPP witnesses may have amounted to contempt of court but they were overruled by Cambodian judges, who rejected such findings, meaning no action could be taken.
“The disturbing consequence of the Cambodian judges’ attitude is that the [tribunal] will not be investigating these allegations of political interference at the court and six potentially exculpatory witnesses for the defense — who were previously approved as witnesses — will not be heard,” lawyers Victor Koppe and Michiel Pestman wrote in a letter yesterday to Surya Subedi, the UN human rights envoy for Cambodia.
“[S]taunch, public condemnation by the special rapporteur of the current state of affairs at the [tribunal] would both spotlight the challenges facing the tribunal and send a strong message” to the government.”
A similar letter was also delivered to Gabriela C Knaul de Albuquerque e Silva, UN rapporteur on judicial independence, who has never visited Cambodia, and copies were addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen, King Norodom Sihamoni, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, according to Jasper Pauw, a member of the defense.
Mr Subedi said in an e-mail yesterday that he was studying the letter and had no further comment. Ms Knaul de Albuquerque e Silva as not immediately available. Government officials have in the past rejected claims of interference, saying that the tribunal must act within the 2004 law that established it.