The trial chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal will not form a second panel of judges to hear the remainder of Case 002, seemingly agreeing with the prosecution’s position that it would actually be quicker for the current judges to hear the case.
In a memo dated December 20 – sent by trial chamber president Nil Nonn to Office of Administration acting director Tony Kranh – the chamber outlined a number of obstacles to the creation of a second panel, and questioned whether such a panel would expedite proceedings, or even have appropriate legal standing.
“As the Trial Chamber is allocated five sitting and two reserve judges, it is unclear whether a legal basis for the establishment of a second panel of the Trial Chamber exists,” Nonn’s filing reads. “The president’s competence to appoint a second panel is also unclear.”
The memo goes on to note delays inherent in the process of hiring staff and appointing new judges, as well as others that would arise from amending the court’s rules to allow the creation of such a panel and, barring that, the legal challenges that would arise from forming the panel without an amendment.
And the delays wouldn’t end there, Nonn argues.
“Once the new judges and legal staff have arrived in Cambodia, they will need to familiarise themselves with the Closing Order, the evidence on the case file, the procedure and the proceedings thus far,” the memo states. “For instance, the International Co-Prosecutor estimates that reading the transcripts alone would take six months (at a rate of 1,000 pages per week).
“Unlike a second panel, [the current bench] will not face all the time-consuming issues discussed above,” Nonn adds.
Ultimately, appointing a second panel, the memo concludes, “is not in the interests of justice”, and a work plan from the trial chamber on the future of Case 002 will be issued “as soon as possible”.
Panhavuth Long, a program officer with the Cambodian Justice Initiative, said yesterday that the chamber’s decision was a welcome one, but that questions still remained over the timeliness of the
“That makes me a little bit worried that the trial chamber may delay again the start of Case 002/02. If they are very concerned about hitting the road as soon as possible, they should have asked for a list of witnesses and documents” from all the parties, he said. “So now, I’m worried that it could take months before the hearing starts.”