Case 002/01 appellant Khieu Samphan pleaded his innocence and accused trial chamber judges of prejudice before the Supreme Court Chamber at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday as the final round of appeal hearings came to a close.
Samphan and co-appellant Nuon Chea are appealing life sentences handed down in August 2014 for crimes against humanity and breaches of the Geneva Convention.
Addressing the chamber prior to adjournment, Samphan maintained that his power in Democratic Kampuchea was limited, despite being head of state, a member of the Communist Party of Kampuchea’s standing committee and – in the words of prosecutor Chea Leang – “a trusted confidant of Pol Pot”.
“The trial chamber had a prejudgment of my guilt, with that determination it sorted and distorted evidence,” he said. “As an intellectual I have never wanted anything other than social justice for my country”.
Samphan went on to explain that his desire for Cambodia’s self-rule and economic independence – and “social equilibrium so there would not be too large a gap between the poor and the rich” – had led him to work with the Sihanouk regime “in the hope of making changes from within”.
But Sihanouk, he said, “established a double-faced policy. He held out a hand to the socialist countries and yet allowed Lon Nol to lead repression against progressive and patriotic forces”, a realisation which Samphan said “forced” him into the forest where he joined the Khmer Rouge.
Samphan said the CPK leaders’ “patriotism in their fight against Lon Nol and the United States” convinced him they would be able to effectively govern.
Accusing the prosecution and investigating judges of having a limited and basic view of CPK policies, Samphan declared, “I have never wanted any policy that involves crimes against the population”.
Seemingly painting himself as a victim of circumstance and ideological naivete, Samphan said the “revolutionary ideology which I believed was misguided by people who clung to the power of feudal laws”.
Prior to Samphan’s remarks, the Chamber asked both parties whether not summoning National Assembly President Heng Samrin was an error. However, the Chea defence, which had made the request and has criticised the omission, maintained their sworn silence.
Samphan defender Anta Guissé said summoning Samrin could provide a “clear vision of the enterprise”. Speaking after proceedings, she said failing to call such government officials “is denying the accused a right to a fair trial”.
Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian said the decision “was within the discretion of the chamber”, although his side was not expressly opposed as “it would not be exonerating” for Chea and Samphan.
Noting that 50 civil parties have died in the last two years, civil party lawyer Marie Giraud said after adjournment that she hoped the chamber would issue a verdict on time, by June 2016, in the interest of bringing “closure” to those still alive.
A verdict, she said, will permit “victims to go home with this decision in mind and to make their own peace”.