Opening statements in the first phase of Case 002 concluded yesterday with the remaining two of the trio of elderly Khmer Rouge leaders on trial berating the prosecution and judges over a wide range of issues.
Former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary was wheeled to the defence dock in a custom-built wheelchair where, in a low, wheezing voice, he struggled through a page-and-a-half-long statement in which he again protested the court’s prosecution of him as a breach of “double jeopardy”.
“In 1996, I received a royal pardon and amnesty from the then co-prime ministers, and former King Norodom Sihanouk granted the royal pardon and amnesty,” Ieng Sary read aloud, before asking for a pause because his “heart could not continue”.
The elderly co-accused has been plagued by health problems including a heart ailment and prostate cancer, his defence counsel said yesterday.
“I am troubled by the Trial Chamber’s refusal to grant a stay until the Supreme Court Chamber can rule on this matter,” said Ieng Sary, who has filed an appeal against the Trial Chamber’s decision that the royal amnesty and pardon granted do not apply.
In 1996, as part of the then-government’s “win-win” policy of ending the civil war and re-integrating the Khmer Rouge, co-Prime Ministers Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh negotiated a royal pardon and amnesty for Ieng Sary, who had been sentenced to death in absentia in mock trials held in 1979 for criminal acts under a law banning the Khmer Rouge. The last of the three to give opening remarks, former Democratic Kampuchea president Khieu Samphan, then took the stand and spent more than an hour delivering scathing remarks directly to the prosecution, criticising their evidence and their failure to identify the sources of their allegations against him.
“How can I respond to a presentation that relies on extracts from books and newspapers?” he said. “Journalists are not legally bound by the law – of course they are entitled to be wrong, biased, and partial and to express their opinions freely without thinking in detail on any particular issue.
“May I remind you that after April 17, 1975 [when the Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh], Le Monde published an article titled ‘Phnom Penh Liberated’ – I believe you would criticise me if I took the opportunity to rely on that article,” Khieu Samphan said.
The youngest of the accused trio then proceeded to chide Cambodian Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang for making a joke of the type of trials conducted during Democratic Kampuchea while she herself was conducting a trial 36 years after the fact and relying on various newspapers, articles and books written by journalists.
Khieu Samphan then turned his attack to international Co-Prosecutor Andrew Cayley’s “fairytale” history.
“Today, you may see it as a joke, however, I shall remind you that at that time, communism is the one movement that gave hope to millions of youth around the world,” he said while casting steely glares toward the prosecution.
“You seem to think I am wrong – why don’t you invite the King Sihanouk to join the dock with me?” he said, later adding that the prosecution knew very well the Khmer Rouge had organised Democratic Kampuchea very rigidly and had a penchant for secrecy and highlighted the prosecution’s failure to indict the King Father, whom he said was of equal culpability to himself
The former president then recounted the destruction of the countryside and citizens’ lives under the blanket bombing of Cambodia by US air forces during the Vietnam War.
“These bombs outnumbered the bombs the alliance used during all of the Second World War everywhere, including the two big bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Khieu Samphan said, before describing the brutality of Lon Nol’s US-aligned government.
Khieu Samphan’s defence counsel similarly poked holes in the prosecution’s use of journalism as evidence in their opening statements.
His French and Cambodian lawyer, the latter only appointed to represent the accused on Friday, echoed their client’s argument that there were very clear roles and structure within the Khmer Rouge government, and that such structures and roles alienated their client from any real decision-making, effectively placing him with King Sihanouk in the role of “window-dressing”.
At the close of yesterday’s opening statements in the first mini-trial of Case 002, Khieu Samphan confirmed he would give testimony in the substantive hearing, while Nuon Chea said he would “cross that bridge when he came to it”, and Ieng Sary told the court he would not be giving any testimony.
Civil party lawyers voiced objections to Ieng Sary’s refusal to give testimony.
“If he chooses not to respond, can we presume he has admitted his guilt already?” Cambodian civil party lawyer Pich Ang asked the court.
Ieng Sary’s international defence counsel slammed the civil party lawyers for their comments.
“These are fair trial rights,” Karnavas said. “I don’t know how they intend to represent their clients if they stand up and misrepresent the law as they do now.”
However, in the eyes of many of the survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime, legal nuances will not temper their memories of the regime.
“They say they are nationalists, but they still killed millions of people,” 62-year-old Khieu Thun told the Post. “I was ordered to dig graves to put dead bodies in every single day, and was only ever given two cans of rice.”
“How can they say they did not allow the genocide to happen, that they did not know about the killing fields or S-21 or Choeung Ek?” 52-year-old Thong Sopheap added.