Representing nearly 4,000 people, the two senior attorneys for civil parties told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday they planned to seek a day of remembrance for the victims of Democratic Kampuchea, among other reparations.
Pich Ang and Elisabeth Simonneau Fort, lead civil party co-lawyers, also forcefully stated the importance of their clients’ presence in the Khmer Rouge trials, saying this was not a “gift” to victims but was an indisputable role in seeking the truth.
Defense lawyers for Ieng Sary addressed the court earlier in the day, speaking on behalf of all defense teams who believe Cambodian-law charges of murder, torture and religious persecution are now barred by a statute of limitations that they say expired in 1989.
The question has already divided judges in the court’s previous trial, and the current trial, which began this week, may represent the last opportunity to apply domestic Cambodian law to the crimes of the Pol Pot era.
As he had done in the previous two days, Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, 84, told the court he did not wish to be present at a hearing where his own defense was not considered.
“I would like to return to the detention facility. I will only return to this courtroom and cooperate with the court actively when my case is on the agenda,” he said.
His co-defendant, Ieng Sary, 85, who suffers from lumbago, complained of discomfort shortly after 10 am and was also allowed to watch by video linkup from a ground-floor room with a bed.
His wife, Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith, 79, appeared to doze off in the morning and afternoon as arguments continued.
In arguing for their clients, Mr Ang and Ms Simonneau Fort reminded the court that they had yet to consult with the more than 1,700 people admitted Friday by the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber as parties to the trial along with the 2,100 people who had been recognized as civil parties last year.
The lawyers said at this point that they were legally required to give only a tentative outline of the reparations that they were likely to request at a later stage.
Ms Simonneau Fort said the trial was not simply an opportunity for victims to express “anger, anxiety and pain,” she said.
“This is not enough in defining the role of a civil party. The civil parties not a guest attending trials to please the victims as if they were being offered some kind of a gift,” said Ms Simonneau Fort.
Mr Ang said civil parties may request a multi-faith stupa where people of different religious confessions may pay their respects to the dead.
“The civil parties would like to request the recognition of a day to remember, that is a remembrance day, and that has not been decided yet,” said Mr Ang. “it could be the day that becomes an official public holiday or a day to remember the genocide at the international level.”
“The civil parties also intend to request for the preservation of the killing sites. It is important that we consider in detail which sites were the sites were a major number of people were executed,” he said.
Final reparations requests may also include psychological counseling, public education about the former regime, the creation of a museum, a list of victims and the establishment of a trust fund to pay for victims, according to Mr Ang.
Ang Udom, a defense lawyer for Ieng Sary, said charges against his client under the penal code of 1956 had expired when a ten-year statute of limitations expired in 1989. The law establishing the court extends to the statute of limitations but defense lawyers have argued that this is retroactive and therefore impermissible.
In last year’s judgment of secret police chairman Kaing Guek Eav, Trial Chamber Judges Silvia Cartwright and Jean-Marc Lavergne sided with the defense, saying that the Cambodian justice system of the 1980s had failed to prosecute the Khmer Rouge and had therefore allowed the statue of limitations to lapse.
However the Trial Chamber’s three Cambodian judges, Nil Nonn, Thou Mony and Ya Sokhan, sided with the prosecution, who argued that the Cambodian justice system was neither functioning nor independent until the creation of the Kingdom of Cambodia in 1993, when the period of the statute of limitations should be considered to have begun.
Extending it by 20 years in 2001, and then by 30 years in 2004, meant that the 1956 penal code could apply today, they said.
The five judges’ disagreement meant that no domestic charges could be brought against Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch.
Michael Karnavas, a lawyer for Ieng Sary, yesterday offered reasoning similar to that of the international judges.
“We maintain that the judicial system from 1979 all the way up to 1991 was functioning and Cambodia had the capacity to investigate,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t because war prevented it.”