With four defendants, thousands of civil parties, millions of victims and subject matter spanning much of the country over nearly four years, the trial of Pol Pot’s surviving coterie is at last scheduled to start with a week of hearings next month.
In a memorandum on Wednesday, the court’s five-judge Trial Chamber notified participants in Case 002 that it would convene an initial hearing on Monday, June 27, to continue over the following three days if necessary.
Nuon Chea, 84, deputy secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea; Khieu Samphan, 79, chairman of the state presidium; Ieng Sary, 85, minister of foreign affairs; and Ieng Thirith, 78, minister of social action, were indicted in September on charges of crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and violations of Cambodian law in the deaths of as many as 2.2 million people.
Though an initial hearing is the formal beginning of trial, the proceeding does not concern the allegations against the accused.
In Wednesday’s memo, Judge Nil Nonn, president of the Trial Chamber, said the hearing would only consider preliminary objections from the defense, lists of witnesses who may be summoned and specifications by the two lead civil party lawyers on the nature of reparations to be sought by the 2,000 victims who are party to the trial. A so-called “substantive hearing,” at which evidence against the accused will be considered, has not been scheduled.
Prosecutors, civil parties and defense lawyers have proposed a total of 1,095 witnesses, with more than half proposed by the Nuon Chea team alone. But judges are likely to summon only a portion of these.
As preliminary objections, defense lawyers are re-litigating many of the issues raised during the two and a half years of investigation. Lawyers for Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea are challenging the court’s power to apply much of the international criminal law, such as the statutes on crimes against humanity and genocide, that their clients are accused of violating between 1975 and 1979. The trial has frequently been described as among the most complex ever prosecuted and is likely to last several years.