The defence team for Nuon Chea is mulling over whether to bow out of document presentations following Wednesday’s surprise walkout in reaction to what they characterise as the latest in a long string of biased judgements.
While the defence appeared in court to explain their actions on the day after they walked out, proceedings were again cut short by the judges’ decision to adjourn until Tuesday, by which time they are expected to make a decision on how to move forward.
Speaking yesterday, Chea defender Victor Koppe said that he would attend Tuesday’s proceedings, as they are not document hearings, but the same couldn’t be said of court on Friday.
“I will be there [Tuesday] without any problem. The document hearing will continue . . . on Friday and we will start listening to the prosecution and we will consider whether we will give a presentation”, he said.
Wednesday’s walkout occurred in response to an objection over the prosecution’s use of recorded witness statements – called “written records of interview” (WRIs) – as documentary evidence, which the defence contends is not acceptable due to their inability to challenge the documents’ contents as they could a sitting witness.
Panhavuth Long, executive director of the Cambodian Justice Initiative (CJI) speaking yesterday said: “It is important that the defence can cross-examine the witness statements but I don’t support that a boycott is the best way to ensure their fair trial rights.”
“According to the Cambodian civil law system, those kinds of statements can be used for information but cannot be used as evidence for conviction,” he continued. “The burden is on the prosecutor to prove that the statement is consistent.”
However, Koppe said he didn’t expect the court to address the defence’s concerns over WRIs,
Koppe admitted that declining to present his team’s documents would “harm the case” – if they were presented to “proper judges”, that is – but he contended that the prosecution’s presentation means the court is “not interested in documents and [so] why would we even bother?”
Echoing Chea’s metaphor that the walkout was a reaction to “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, Koppe maintained that since the denial of the request for new judges in November, his team has faced continuous bias, or “the constant beating of the camel”.
A request for comment from the prosecution was not returned as of press time yesterday, but in Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors defended their use of WRIs, and called the defence’s walkout “completely illogical”.