A request to release information about possible links between former Khmer Rouge tribunal investigator Stephen Heder and the US Central Intelligence Agency has been dismissed, according to a letter from the court’s co-investigating judges obtained Tuesday.
The defense team for Ieng Sary had asked that the judges release information related to a claim, allegedly made by Mr Heder in a 2003 book proposal, that he was formerly an “intelligence officer.”
In their Jan 30 request, the lawyers wrote that Mr Heder, an American scholar specializing in the Khmer Rouge regime, would likely have been employed by the CIA, which could have had an impact on his impartiality as an investigator for the office of the co-investigating judges.
The judges, however, dismissed that allegation as baseless in their communication to the defense team, dated May 29.
“In order to avoid any ambiguity and to cut short on any erroneous or malicious interpretation, we choose to indicate that we have no knowledge of any information or documentation that might support the allegations in your request in any way at all,” the judges said in the letter.
They went on to explain that, according to the court’s internal rules, legal parties can only request disqualification of a judge, not an investigator.
“We can only repeat…the lack of any legal basis for this type of request,” the letter continued.
Michael Karnavas, a member of the Ieng Sary defense team, said in an e-mail Tuesday that he was disappointed by the response, and pointed out the brevity of the letter, which was less than a page in length.
“It is surprising to say the least that this cursory and defensive response to our open and transparent request took over four months to draft,” he said. “The OCIJ’s defensive response to our request gives the unavoidable impression that it is trying to hide something.”
Mr Karnavas explained that, according to the court’s internal rules, the defense cannot launch an appeal to the judges’ letter.
“We have no option but to move for the disqualification of Mr Heder…directly before the Pre-Trial Chamber in line with the procedure set out in the Internal Rules,” he said.
The defense team will also call for the disqualification of David Boyle, another investigator for the judges’ office at the tribunal, Mr Karnavas added. In August, the co-investigating judges dismissed the defense’s request for information on Mr Boyle after he publicly stated that Ieng Sary’s 1996 pardon and amnesty need not prevent his trial.
When contacted by e-mail Tuesday, Mr Heder, who left the tribunal last year, said that he was unable to comment on anything related to the court.