Former Democratic Kampuchea leader Nuon Chea’s international defence lawyer Victor Koppe yesterday proposed Khmer Rouge tribunal judges visit Kraing Ta Chan Security Centre to discover who was lying about atrocities at the site.
Over three days of evidence, witness Van Soeun, a former guard and messenger at the compound in Takeo province, maintained he didn’t witness killings and torture – described in detail by previous tribunal witnesses and former inmates Meas Sokha and Soy Sen – because his unit guarded outside.
Yesterday, after provoking an objection when asking Soeun about Soy Sen’s allegations that members of his squad participated in mass executions, killed children and raped a woman, Koppe brought the discrepancies to a head.
“Maybe it’s time that all parties including the trial chamber pays an onsite visit to Kraing Ta Chan,” said Koppe, who later made a formal request.
“It is a very, very small site . . . I’m not suggesting that this witness or his fellow unit members should have been able to see everything but the idea that you wouldn’t be able to witness the executions, for instance, of a hundred prisoners, the burial in pits of a hundred prisoners, the awful smell of that must have come from decomposing bodies, it’s just simply impossible. Either Soy Sen and Meas Sokha are lying, or the unit members are lying.”
Later in the hearing, Soeun recalled the “awful stink” of “human corpses” buried in pits, adding cadres from the prison suggested the smell was from dead chickens and dogs.
Following Soeun’s evidence, a trial management meeting heard Koppe’s motion to adjourn on the grounds that the “overwhelming” amount of new evidence “dumped” on them from Cases 003 and 004 was impacting his client’s right to a fair trial.
He suggested a six-week break to analyse almost 3,000 pages of recently disclosed witness statements or, alternatively, postponing two upcoming witnesses – former leading cadres – because the new material was relevant to their testimony.
International co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian responded that if the defence “magically” found relevant information in new statements that would have changed their questions to witnesses, then they could apply to have them recalled.
Judges will rule on the motions when hearings resume on Monday.