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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ECCC gives Verges 'warning'

ECCC gives Verges 'warning'

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Judges call lawyer's behaviour ‘insulting', threaten sanctions.

Photo by:
TRACEY SHELTON

Jacques Verges, co-defence lawyer for Khieu Samphan, at the ECCC in this file photo.

JUDGES at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday issued a public warning to international defence lawyer Jacques Verges, threatening the French attorney with sanctions if he obstructs or abuses proceedings.

"From the first time that Mr Verges appeared before the pretrial chamber ... he has refused to participate meaningfully in the hearings," said the warning.

"The pretrial chamber hereby warns Mr Jacques Verges that were his conduct to remain offensive or otherwise abusive ... the chamber would impose sanctions."

Citing a number of incidents, including not showing up to a hearing in February and comments he made to judges over allegations of corruption at the court, judges called Verges "abusive and insulting", and his actions intolerable.

"The unsubstantiated allegations made by Mr Verges and the language he employed were abusive and insulting towards the pretrial chamber's judges.... They cannot be tolerated by the pretrial chamber," it said.

Judges being unfair: defence

The warning is the second issued to ECCC defence lawyers, and as such has prompted a fierce response from the chief of the defence section,

Richard Rogers, who claimed judges were failing to uphold fair standards.

"While accepting that lawyers need to act within certain boundaries ... this needs to be put into context. We are in a court in which there are widespread allegations of corruption pertaining to half of the court's staff. We are also in a court in which there are allegations that the Cambodian prosecutor is following political instructions rather than making decisions based on evidence," he told the Post.

"These are issues that go straight to the heart of the entire procedure, but yet the only people that have faced sanctions by judges are defence lawyers. We need to ask ourselves whether the judges are applying the same standards to everyone," Rogers said.

Verges, who is defending former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, has been given the name "devil's advocate" because of his penchant for defending the most notorious criminals.

More controversial than his clients, however, is his abrasive defence style, which has also gained notoriety as a rupturing technique.   

"If ECCC judges do not have a legitimate argument [to threaten sanctions], it could be a menace and affect Khieu Samphan's defence," said Sok Som Oeun, director of the Cambodia Defenders Project. 

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