Former Democratic Kampuchea leader Khieu Samphan yesterday broke his silence at the Khmer Rouge tribunal and denied knowledge of events in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district and Kraing Ta Chan security centre, amid a heated spat over evidence.
In his first statements since the opening day of Case 002/02 in January, when he vowed to maintain his right to silence, the former Khmer Rouge head of state also defended his defence team, who had faced criticism from judges after a dispute over their submissions in the document presentation session.
“I’d like to confirm that I did not know any particular instances or what happened at Kraing Ta Chan or at Tram Kak and I would like to appeal to the chamber to allow my counsels to make key document presentation based on the documents that I have in my hand and that my counsels have, that is on the policies of [Democratic Kampuchea],” Samphan, 83, said.
The disagreement surrounded Samphan’s international lawyer Arthur Vercken’s use of excerpts from the Khmer Rouge’s Revolutionary Flag magazine about nationwide commune policies, which he argued were crucial to his client’s defence.
Judges, however, said yesterday’s submissions should relate directly to Tram Kak district and Kraing Ta Chan, the focus of the current trial segment, and that general policies would be discussed later.
Although eventually granted the floor to continue, Vercken said too much time had been lost and refused.
Judges then ended the session early and censured Vercken for being unprepared, sparking a second speech by Samphan, which he prefaced by declaring he still held his right to silence but wanted to “provide clarification” when necessary.
“Please don’t mention that my counsel does not have the ability to prepare the documents; we have been interrupted on so many occasions,” he said, before chamber president Nil Nonn instructed him to sit down.
Earlier in the hearing, Nuon Chea’s international lawyer Victor Koppe argued the closing order’s allegation of 15,000 executions at Kraing Ta Chan was based on a forged document designed to inflate the prison’s death toll, which he alleged was among a number of forgeries created after 1979 which had been used as evidence by the prosecution.
Koppe said the six-line note scribbled on a Kraing Ta Chan notebook stating “up until today we have smashed 15,000 enemies” was written in two different handwritings and “clearly out of context” as other entries comprised individual confessions.
Meanwhile, France’s Olivier Beauvallet – previously a reserve international co-investigating judge – was yesterday announced as a new international judge for the tribunal’s pretrial chamber.