THE Khmer Rouge tribunal continued today with the second day of hearings in the trial of the four most senior surviving leaders of Democratic Kampuchea, with debate focusing largely on the 1996 pardon and amnesty granted to former KR foreign minister Ieng Sary.
In addition to Ieng Sary and his wife, former KR social action minister Ieng Thirith, the case also features former KR head of state Khieu Samphan and Brother Number 2 Nuon Chea.
For the second day in a row, Nuon Chea left the hearing early in the morning, telling the judges that he would return to the Trial Chamber when his own case was considered. Today’s hearing instead focused on Ieng Sary, who received a pardon signed by then-King Norodom Sihanouk upon defecting to the government in 1996.
Sihanouk pardoned Ieng Sary in relation to his 1979 conviction at the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal, where he was sentenced to death in absentia along with regime leader Pol Pot, and granted him amnesty from prosecution under the 1994 Law to Outlaw the Democratic Kampuchea Group, which criminalised membership in the Khmer Rouge.
In a decision earlier this year, the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber ruled that this pardon and amnesty were no bar to Ieng Sary’s current prosecution.
The pardon, they said, related only to Ieng Sary’s 1979 conviction in absentia at the People’s Revolutionary Tribunal, set up shortly after the Khmer Rouge; the amnesty, they said, applied only to the 1994 law and not to the charges under domestic and international law that Ieng Sary currently faces at the tribunal.
However, this ruling is not binding on the court’s Trial Chamber, and defence lawyers argued today that the tribunal could not prosecute him.
“Mr Ieng Sary negotiated that he would only reintegrate [with the Cambodian government] if he received an amnesty from any future prosecutions for any alleged acts,” defence lawyer Ang Udom said. “This was a non-negotiable condition.”
Prosecutors argued, however, that the amnesty did not apply to genocide and other charges listed in the current indictment against Ieng Sary, and in any case, that amnesties may not be given under international law for crimes of such gravity.