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Veracity of evidence called into question

Questions of authenticity, reliability and accessibility took centre stage at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday as prosecutors and defence attorneys responded to documents each side presented detailing the Khmer Rouge’s activities in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district and its notorious Kraing Ta Chan security centre.

Opening the morning session, prosecutor Dale Lysak defended his side’s documentary evidence and asserted that the defence could not “find even a single document to present” from the district that helped their case, despite it arguably being one of the most well-preserved sources of insight into Pol Pot’s regime. Furthermore, he argued that the defence’s presentation was actually detrimental to defendant Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s second-in-command.

“These documents do not help the defence,” he said. “All they serve to prove is the security apparatus through which perceived enemies of the CPK [Communist Party of Kampuchea] were arrested and sent to re-education offices for torture and execution.”

He went on to cite examples of the documents presented by the defence: a report including the “re-education” of a man who stole food out of desperation and four men who raised suspicion when they were seen spending time together.

“This is Nuon Chea’s idea of being cautious,” Lysak said, as he accused Chea defender Victor Koppe of “feeding” judges Khmer Rouge propaganda to condone its actions.

Meanwhile, Koppe maintained that the prosecution’s documents were unreliable and said its case was too dependent on photocopied documents, “torture-tainted” evidence and second-hand sources.

“If we cannot get the original documents, limited value should be assigned to them.”

Koppe also criticised Lysak for including the matter of the Khmer Krom, ethnic Cambodians born in Vietnam, saying the issue was “out of the current scope of the proceedings”.

Khieu Samphan’s counsel chastised the civil party lawyers’ presentation of statements by people who will never appear in court and, echoing the Nuon Chea defence, also called into question the legitimacy of secondary sources.

“These individuals have not appeared in front of the chamber . . . Their statements or information therefore cannot be used in these proceedings,” said Kong Sam Onn, a co-lawyer for Samphan.

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