The Supreme Court Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday ordered the clerk of the court’s Trial Chamber to forward it all available documents in the Case 002 case file, saying it had been inappropriately denied access to documents it felt were relevant to appeals filed by defence teams.
In their filing, judges at the tribunal’s highest body maintained that the clerk – or greffier – had interpreted the court’s internal rules in a way that was “erroneous and has caused unnecessary delays” by refusing to forward the chamber confidential documents that he had deemed irrelevant to the appeals being considered by the higher body.
“The determination of what, if any, documents on the case file are relevant to the proper adjudication of appeals… rests within the sole discretion of the Supreme Court Chamber,” the filing read, before going on to demand “unrestricted access to the case file in Case 002” any time it receives an immediate appeal.
Michael Karnavas, defence attorney for Ieng Sary – whose appeal was cited in the filing – said the order to grant access to the complete court record “validates” his own efforts to create a complete record, the permissibility of which was the subject of the very appeal in question.
“We’ve been attempting throughout this process to create an objective, verifiable record that would allow the Supreme Court Chamber to determine whether errors... were being made by the trial chamber,” said Karnavas, who had appealed the lower body’s refusal to, among other things, allow him to videotape his client as evidence of the impact of his illness on his ability to follow proceedings.
“Whether the Supreme Court, after reviewing everything, will reverse the trial chamber’s decision – that’s something else. That we can’t predict,” he added, noting that it was nonetheless “encouraging to know that we’re going to get a fair shake”.
Karnavas went on to say that the Supreme Court’s decision noted “something that should be self-evident to the Trial Chamber greffier”.
“Judges who have been accused of erring, either in law or in fact… normally don’t get to choose what [evidence] the higher court will review,” he added. “Perhaps, looking at the decision, [the Supreme Court is] noticing that there is a pattern, and they should do something.”
Last month, the higher chamber stunned observers by ordering the Trial Chamber to reconsider its controversial severance order – which had governed Case 002 proceedings from the start – saying judges had committed an error of law.