Both Khieu Samphan's and Nuon Chea’s defence counsels walked out of proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday midway through the prosecution’s document presentations following an overruled objection from Victor Koppe, Nuon Chea’s defender.
Koppe’s objection concerned the use of “written records of interviews” (WRIs), particularly in regard to whether the subject of those interviews, typically a witness, is dead or alive. Koppe challenged the reliability of WRIs, arguing that their use as documentary evidence is inappropriate.
Allowing the prosecution to quote from WRIs at length, he continued, was tantamount to a “closing argument situation”.
Co-prosecutor Vincent de Wilde, however, held that the WRIs were perfectly acceptable.
Chamber president Nil Nonn at first overruled Koppe’s objection, though only in part, saying parties could “present such written records of interviews so long as parties can prove that the witness in the record of those interviews passed away”.
Prosecutor William Smith, however, requested that the chamber allow all WRIs.
“As far as written records of interviews are concerned . . . we submit they are reliable, corroborative pieces of evidence we should be able to put before this chamber, whether or not the author of that statement is dead or alive,” Smith said.
Nonn, seemingly revising his earlier ruling, clarified that, in fact, WRIs for living witnesses were permissible, and instructed the prosecution to continue.
Shortly thereafter, as the prosecution finished reading a lengthy WRI, Koppe interjected, demanding to know whether the witness in the statement was dead or alive.
However, when judge Claudia Fenz reiterated that all WRIs were admissible, Koppe announced his team “will officially withdraw from our document presentation because this is a farce”.
The presentation resumed briefly before Khieu Samphan defender Arthur Vercken interrupted to similarly state his team’s withdrawal because it “does not see why it should continue partaking in something that resembles final statements more than anything else”.
Both defence teams declined to comment on the withdrawal yesterday.
Smith characterised the walkout as “completely illogical”, while civil party lead co-lawyer Pich Ang said it was “absolutely not appropriate”.
Due to the defence’s “boycott”, as Nonn called it, the court was forced to adjourn.