The Khmer Rouge tribunal has officially announced that Ieng Sary defenders Ang Udom and Michael Karnavas had been assigned to a client in the controversial, government-opposed Case 003.
Although the identities of possible defendants in the contentious case are technic-ally confidential, Udom confirmed in August that suspected co-accused Meas Muth had requested his representation at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and that he had accepted.
“This is the first time in the history of the ECCC that the [Defence Support Services] has assigned any lawyer to represent multiple suspects or accused persons simultan-eously,” Friday’s announcement read, noting that the court had taken the attorneys’ experience into consideration, as well as the “suspect’s expressed preferences”.
Karnavas said via email yesterday that he looked forward to “vigorously representing” his client, but called the lengthy assignment process “disappointing”.
“It has taken over six months for this assignment to be made, and though not much has gone on in the case, this is time lost for the defence and the client,” he said.
“No doubt more challenges lie ahead. We will just deal with them in our usual fashion — aggressive and focused lawyering.”
Open Society Justice Initiative tribunal monitor Clair Duffy said more challenges were not out of the question.
“It is possible this could come up again: for example, if the prosecution or the civil parties raised the issue,” Duffy said in an email, noting that in the Rwanda tribunal, lawyers had to be released from their clients before taking new ones to avoid conflicts of interest.
Despite past government opposition to Case 003, she said, there remained a “slim possibility” that it could still make it to trial, and called on the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges — which has been tight-lipped since the arrival of new Investigating Judge Mark Harmon — to make its progress public.
Court spokesperson Yuko Maeda said via email yesterday said that both clients had signed waivers stating that there was no conflict of interest in having the same representation, and added that investigations into cases 003 and 004 were ongoing.
“As Judge Mark Harmon assumed his office in October, the work on those cases has been resumed,” Maeda said, adding that the co-investigat-ors were in the process of recruiting temporary staff.