The defence team of Nuon Chea yesterday challenged the value of several pieces of documentation the prosecution presented to the tribunal late last month.
Co-counsel Victor Koppe asserted that the material – including sections from journalist Thet Sambath’s 2009 documentary Enemies of the People and book Behind the Killing Fields, which include interviews with Nuon Chea – offered no evidence of coordinated policies to kill Lon Nol soldiers or force people to marry, as the prosecution had alleged.
To support his claims, Koppe asked the court to play a clip of the film in which Sambath asks Nuon Chea about the killings of defeated Lon Nol soldiers.
“At the time, I didn’t know at all about these killings,” Nuon Chea says in the film. “If I had known then, we would have taken preventative measures to stop that kind of thing. They’d done nothing wrong; they were normal soldiers, no different from ordinary people.”
On the prosecution’s insistence, however, the court continued the clip to show Nuon Chea stating that the top Lon Nol officers “were to be liquidated. They deserved the severest penalty; they’d betrayed the nation to foreigners”.
“I would like to remind the chamber,” Koppe said, “that the prosecution thinks Nuon Chea was fairly honest in this video.”
He added that his client, who he noted turned 87 on Sunday, “never knew this [interview] was going to be public”.
Koppe claimed the prosecution was framing the soldiers’ killings, which he attributed to cadres acting independently, so as to “manufacture an impression that this practice was so widespread that it must have been pursuant to a policy”.
In reality, Khmer Rouge statements against allegedly targeted groups were no more than wartime rhetoric, he said, likening them to statements by former US president George W Bush during the war on terror. The court sustained the prosecution’s objections that these comparisons were not relevant.
Koppe also argued that none of the prosecution’s documents demonstrated a policy of forced marriages, adding that such a policy was unlikely to increase the population, the rationale the prosecution suggested.
Nuon Chea co-counsel Son Arun also contested alleged evidence that Chea had significant leadership in the military and said Nuon Chea was “baffled” by the assertion that he had been acting prime minister for a year.