Judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have scrapped defense appeals seeking the exclusion of the so-called confessions extracted under torture at Tuol Sleng.
However, in a pair of rulings issued in December and January, the five-judge pre-trail chamber differed with judicial investigators, who ruled in July that using evidence arising from instances of torture was acceptable under certain circumstances.
“There is no room for a determination of the truth or for use otherwise of any statement obtained through torture,” the pre-trial judges found unanimously.
They nevertheless found that they were legally barred from considering the defense motions as the co-investigating judges’ July order was not open to appeal by the defense.
Lawyers for Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan and Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith sought last year to bar the court from using the 5,000 surviving written confessions from Tuol Sleng, citing the UN Convention Against Torture, to which Cambodia is a state party, which says that torture-obtained evidence can only be used against torture suspects and only “as evidence that the statement was made.”
Co-Investigating Judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng said in July that evidence arising from torture could help them uncover other useful information or prove that the regime committed systematic crimes against the Cambodian people.
Defendants in the court’s second case may still object at trial to the use of this evidence, according to Lars Olsen, the tribunal’s legal affairs spokesman.
“The defense can challenge the evidence during the trial phase if the case goes to trial and then it will be up to the trial chamber,” he said.
Local and international rights groups have urged the court to strictly abide by the prohibition, despite the fact that some of this evidence-including 5,000 “confessions” from Tuol Sleng prison-could be used against senior Khmer Rouge leaders investigated by the court between 2007 and 2010 for the torture itself.