The president of the Trial Chamber at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday requested that judicial police explain why a witness had refused to testify for the past two days, according to a letter released by the court.
For a second consecutive day, proceedings at the tribunal were adjourned after the witness—who was identified only as 2-TCW-827—refused to provide testimony related to the alleged genocide of Cham Muslims during the Pol Pot era.
“The Chamber issued an order to bring witness, that is 2-TCW-827,” Chamber President Nil Nonn told the court on Tuesday morning. “However, so far this witness…is not present in the courtroom. The Chamber expects to have a report from the judicial police officer in relation to the summoning of this witness.”
As a result, Judge Nonn sent a request to Lor Soleng, the tribunal’s judicial police liaison, requesting a report “relating to the witness’s refusal to appear before the Court, including the specific justifications therefor.”
According to the letter, the witness has “repeatedly refused” to testify since September, citing poor health. After the witness refused a medical assessment, the court on March 29 made preparations to order the judicial police to bring him to court “by force,” but stopped short when Major General Soleng informed Judge Nonn that the witness had agreed to appear on Monday.
The day before he was due to testify, however, the witness “changed his mind” and refused to appear “without any justification,” the letter said.
As a result, the Trial Chamber asked that Maj. Gen. Soleng provide a report outlining “all contacts undertaken with 2-TCW-827, personally or through other individuals” since March 28.
Article 315 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that the tribunal may use “public force” to compel witnesses to take the stand.
Reached by telephone on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Soleng said it was “unlikely” that the witness would be taken to the court by force. He declined to comment further.
Despite the court’s refusal to name 2-TCW-827, senior assistant prosecutor Dale Lysak said in October that he was a Cham Muslim and an “oknha,” an honorific generally reserved for wealthy businessmen with close ties to the ruling CPP. Mr. Lysak then read from a statement in which the witness claimed the Khmer Rouge appointed him to supervise 400 children in Kompong Cham province’s Chamkar Loeu district.
In “Oukoubah,” a book by Ysa Osman, who recently appeared before the tribunal as an expert witness, the author cites interviews with “Uknha” Sos Kamry, chief of the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs in Cambodia, who offers an identical account of his time in the district.
Last month, Anta Guisse, a lawyer for Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, mentioned that the same witness claimed he was not obliged to take an oath before the Trial Chamber due to being a religious leader.
(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)