Stephen Heder Explains Mystery of KR Codes

Stephen Heder took the stand for the last time at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday, likely bringing an end to hearings that began in November 2011, and paving the way for parties to begin preparing their closing remarks.

On his final day of testimony, Mr. Heder explained that Khmer Rouge leaders used “code numbers that were intended to be obscure and opaque,” as was the case with the mysterious Office 870.

In his paper, “Seven Candi­dates for Prosecution: Accountability for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge,” Mr. Heder describes the office as having been “a form of cabinet for the [Communist Party of Kampuchea Central Committee.]”

He explained in court that while offices “existed throughout the entire party structure or hierarchy,” Office 870 was unique in that it had no core location and was largely shrouded in mystery regarding who was at the helm.

“What’s unique about the [par­ty] center is the establishment or attempted establishment of this separate political office,” Mr. Heder said. “That didn’t exist at any other level.”

The codes also made it difficult for people to really know its structure, he added.

“People have talked about 870 and then have gone on to describe S-71,” which was a sub-office of 870, he said.

“If you ask the question ‘who was chairperson of 870?’ Indeed some people would say [Chhim Sam Aok, alias] Pang, Lim, Deuan and then it was Khieu Samphan.

“This reflects the results of the intentional obfuscation in the terminology—this is what it was designed to do, to make it hard for outsiders to figure out who’s who and what’s what.”

Also in court on Thursday, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Tarik Abdulhak raised the subject of an op-ed that the Khieu Samphan defense team had published in a local newspaper saying unfair treatment by the court has forced their client to remain silent.

The prosecution called on the Trial Chamber to sanction the Khieu Samphan defense for interfering with the administration of justice, saying: “The reason we made this application is both in light of the fact we are approaching the conclusion of evidence, but the scandalous nature of allegations was made in a public fashion.”

The op-ed had alleged that the defense was not always given sufficient time to counter documents put forth by the prosecution and that their microphones had repeatedly been cut.

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