The Cambodian Bar Association will order its members to boycott a training session offered by the Khmer Rouge tribunal Defense Office and the International Bar Association on the grounds that the course is illegal, a senior bar official said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the bar association official said that the bar agreed Thursday night to issue a letter to all members ordering them to not attend the training offered by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the International Bar Association.
The International Criminal Law training session, which the tribunal has stated is essential for lawyers who wish to practice before the ECCC, is scheduled to run from Monday to Friday.
“The council members had a meeting and the bar association will issue the letter to all members explaining the legal reasons why they should not cooperate with the training,” the official said.
The official said that the International Bar Association must cooperate directly with the Cambodian Bar Association on such courses.
“They must comply with Cambodian law,” he said.
Lawyer Te Chamnan, a member of the bar council who was at the council meeting Thursday, confirmed that 18 members of the council had reached a decision on how to deal with the ECCC’s legal training.
He declined to comment further and referred questions to bar President Ky Tech, who could not be contacted.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that the bar association did not have the power to prohibit attorneys from attending the training.
The CDP is scheduled to offer instruction in criminal procedure as part of the ECCC and IBA course, he added.
The boycott could derail the adoption of the internal rules of the ECCC, which are being debated at a weeklong plenary session and are due to be adopted on Saturday.
The 113 proposed rules govern the roles of judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, suspects and witnesses at the ECCC.
The plenary session is comprised of 19 judges, two co-prosecutors, the director and deputy director of administration for the court, reserve judges, and the principal defender, ECCC spokesman Peter Foster said.
Among other issues, the plenary session has not yet decided who will be allowed to vote on the rules, Foster said.
“Only the members of the plenary know for sure if they will meet the schedule,” he said of Saturday’s scheduled deadline for adopting the rules.
“There are many strong views and many strong speakers and that always makes for a lively debate,” he added.
He declined to comment on the content of the discussions.
One senior official participating in the plenary session and speaking on condition of anonymity said it was too early to tell whether deep disagreements would derail the planned adoption of the rules by Saturday.
If that happens, he said, “there will be a problem.”
Amnesty International on Thursday called on the judges of the ECCC not to rush to adopt the rules and to extend their consideration deadline and allow more time for public comment and expert consultation.
ECCC officials received copies of the draft rules Oct 23; they were released to the public Nov 3.
Several groups that submitted comments on the draft rules bemoaned the fact that they had not had time to make a more thorough study.
What will happen if the rules are not adopted by Saturday is unclear.
The court could convene another plenary session, Foster said.
The ECCC budget does have some money set aside for travel costs, but there is no budgetary allocation for plenary sessions.
“It costs extra every time they meet,” Foster said. “Every time they do it, they have to figure out how to get the money.”
The draft rules do allow for amendment, and other criminal courts have made liberal use of their ability to make adjustments after rules have been adopted, said another member of the plenary session who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
“You never get it right the first time,” the official said.
The increasingly controversial training session that the Defense Office and the International Bar Association had planned to offer next week is one of the issues now being debated at the plenary session, Foster said.
“I hope they can resolve the differences they have. Discussions are still ongoing,” he added.
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul, Erika Kinetz and Douglas Gillison.)