Hearings will start on Monday to address a bombshell Khmer Rouge tribunal decision invalidating the court’s long-maligned Severance Order, Trial Chamber judges announced yesterday.
On Friday, the tribunal’s highest body annulled the 2011 decision – which has governed Case 002 proceedings from the start – saying the order was poorly reasoned and misinterpreted the law.
For more than a year, the case against the regime’s top living leaders has focused solely on forced evacuations, the first “mini-trial” plucked from the severed indictment. Noting that the ill health of the defendants virtually ensures the first mini-trial will be the only one, critics have lambasted the severance, saying it fails to represent the gravity of the crimes.
In the highly detailed memo sent to all parties yesterday, Trial Chamber president Judge Nil Nonn outlines nearly a dozen questions for lawyers to address in the hearings as a means of allowing the chamber “to deal with the current uncertainty surrounding the envisaged scope of proceedings.”
The Supreme Court Chamber had also called on the lower body to seek input from the parties, whose rights it said the Trial Chamber had violated by failing to do so previously.
The questions – especially those directed at the prosecution and civil parties – are markedly pointed.
“As a general matter,” Nonn asks, “would you prefer the Chamber to attempt to try a broader array of charges and factual allegations in Case 002 at the risk of no verdict being ultimately obtained, or do you consider it preferable to proceed instead in relation to a more limited array of charges and factual allegations, thereby increasing the likelihood that a verdict can be rendered?”
Of the defence, Nonn asks what measures would be necessary “to avoid or remedy any prejudice” should a severance be reinstated.
While the Supreme Court Chamber blasted the reasoning and the process by which the severance had been issued, judges also left room for the possibility that it could be restored if the legal framework is shored up.
Defence and civil party lawyers said yesterday they were heartened by the speed with which the Trial Chamber was addressing the decision, but noted there were few other options.
“This is, however, expected, given that the substantive trial in case 002 cannot proceed without the factual parameters of the hearing being settled first, as a pre-requisite to formulating (or re-formulating) the scope of witnesses to be heard and the scope of witness evidence to be adduced, as well as more administrative issues such as witness availability and witness order, the length and duration of the trial, and a timeframe for its completion,” said civil party lawyer Lyma Nguyen.
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