The Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan defence teams formally appealed the verdict in the recently wrapped Case 002/01 at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, with each laying out myriad grievances with the lengthy trial that saw the two defendants handed life sentences in August.
Though lengthier documents are to follow, the Nuon Chea team nonetheless listed 223 alleged errors in the court’s conduct of the case and in its judgement against its client, including nearly 20 errors "concerning the legitimacy and fairness of the proceedings”.
“The Case 002/01 Judgment contorts the evidence and the applicable legal standards in a concerted, result-oriented effort to maximize Nuon Chea’s criminal liability and demonize the leadership of the CPK,” the filing reads. “Accordingly, the Judgment not only fails to respect Nuon Chea’s fundamental right to a fair trial, it calls into question the legitimacy of an institution clearly less concerned with ascertaining truth than with writing the final chapter of a propaganda campaign on behalf of Nuon Chea’s political opponents.”
The document goes on to assert that the court’s national judges had been unduly influenced by their own experiences under the regime, that errors in the use of evidence “pervade the Judgement”, and that the court had “flagrantly” violated its own rules by cherry-picking supposedly inadmissible evidence from outside the trial’s strictly enforced temporal jurisdiction.
In its own 30-page riposte to the trial chamber’s ruling, the Samphan defence said their client’s right to a fair trial had been “violated” by the court’s “numerous errors”.
According to the defence, the prosecution incorrectly presumed Samphan’s personal responsibility and detailed knowledge of events like the evacuation of Phnom Penh and the executions at Tuol Po Chrey given that the Khmer Rouge regime’s secretive “Party Centre” was a blurry and ever-shifting group of people.
“The Chamber committed a factual error by stating that the evacuation of Phnom Penh was done by homogenous armed forces [operating] in a unified chain of command under the control of the ‘Party Centre”, the filing reads.
The defence also accused the prosecution of not taking into account the context of the time, such as the US bombing of Cambodia, Vietnamese and Chinese power games and Samphan’s desire to “reform from the top in a gentle [manner]” prior to 1970.
The prosecution also filed a notice of appeal yesterday, but rather than taking issue with the factual findings of the verdict, they argued that the court should permit the use of a broader form of joint criminal enterprise liability, the mode of responsibility under which the defendants were found guilty.
With the broader form, the court would be able to hold the defendants responsible not only for crimes they and their peers explicitly planned to commit, but also all reasonably foreseeable crimes that happened as a result of that plan.