Tribunal Tells Nuon Chea Lawyer to ‘Correct His Behavior’

Victor Koppe, defense counsel for Nuon Chea, said Tuesday that he would not apologize for criticizing judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal last week after the court’s Trial Chamber threatened to take action against the lawyer if he refused to “correct his behavior.”

The defense teams for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan—who are both on trial for crimes including genocide in the second phase of Case 002—walked out of the courtroom on Wednesday last week during a dispute over the prosecution’s planned use of written records of interview (WRI) in a documentary hearing.

Victor Koppe, defense counsel for Nuon Chea, speaks at the Khmer Rouge tribunal last week. (ECCC)
Victor Koppe, defense counsel for Nuon Chea, speaks at the Khmer Rouge tribunal last week. (ECCC)

During heated debates last week, Mr. Koppe referred to the hearing as “a farce” and said Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne “had made cowardly decisions and lacked judicial integrity” throughout the case.

After reaffirming that WRIs were permissible during documentary hearings Tuesday, tribunal President Nil Nonn warned the Dutch lawyer about his conduct.

“During the session on 27 August, 2015, some disparaging statements were made by Mr. Koppe and directed to members of the trial panel…. The chamber is in the process of considering what action would be appropriate to take in this matter,” Judge Nonn said.

“The Chamber wishes to offer Mr. Koppe an opportunity to correct his behavior and note that if he fails to do so, the Chamber will have no choice but to take some action. The Chamber will notify the parties further on the situation in due course of time,” he said.

In an email, Mr. Koppe said Judge Nonn’s threat was unclear, but that he would not apologize for his comments.

“I’m also not sure how to interpret this exactly. I think I’ll wait for some written decision,” he said. “What ‘taking action’ means I also don’t know. Either a warning or a referral to my bar in Amsterdam, I would imagine.

“Will I retract what I said last week? The answer is no,” he added.

After Judge Nonn’s announcement Tuesday, the court heard the first of statements of harm and suffering from civil parties related to the current segment of the second phase of Case 002, including from Nuon Narom, who was based at the January 1 dam site in Kompong Thom province.

After recounting now-familiar anecdotes of disappearances, malnutrition and overwork at the site, a visibly distressed Ms. Narom put questions to the defendants.

“I have young nephews, about 7 or 8, who were very young and innocent, and their lives were lost. And you, you killed so many people again and again. You killed your own people. What was the purpose of that?” Ms. Narom asked Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. “Did you want to replace the Khmer people by another group of people?”

Both the accused exercised their right to remain silent.

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