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Tribunal eyes future beyond Case 002/01

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday outlined its schedule for this month’s closing arguments and beyond, sketching a rough roadmap for the court’s near future as the current sub-trial, Case 002/01, begins to wind down.

In addition to “highly tentative” dates for the prosecution’s recommendations on sentencing and defendants’ final statements – currently expected on October 21 and 31, respectively – court spokesmen Lars Olsen and Dim Sovannarom also spoke about plans for the rest of Case 002, and the drafting of a new budget to keep the court running for the next two years.

“The second trial is not optional, as there is an order from the Supreme Court chamber to … commence hearing evidence as soon as possible,” Olsen said, adding that the second trial was required to hear more “representative” charges relating to genocide, S-21 and work cooperatives.

A trial management meeting to be held after closing arguments will explore whether such a trial could commence with a new panel of judges while Case 002/01 is still being decided, and the possibility “is being actively pursued”, Sovannarom said.

A second panel, observers have said, would place an additional burden on the often cash-strapped court. But Sovannarom said the 2014-2015 budget would cut costs through further staff reductions.

According to Olsen, given the ongoing funding issues, “every department is making sure that its requests are realistic”.

Panhavuth Long, a program officer for the Cambodian Justice Initiative, said that while starting a new panel would be positive, both legal and logistical issues – including compiling the panel, and giving defence teams adequate time to prepare – would make the process easier said than done.

“It is very good, that kind of schedule. It is a benchmark for the court to follow … but I am a bit sceptical of those arrangements,” he said.

Second trial or no, estimates on when a verdict might be rendered in Case 002/01 still remain hazy.

“Your crystal ball is as good as mine, but our indication from the trial chamber is that they will render a verdict in the first half of next year,” Olsen said.

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