The Supreme Court Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal issued two rulings yesterday: one upholding the trial chamber’s decision to separate Case 002 into “mini-trials” and a second instructing court administrators to investigate the possibility of forming a second panel of judges to begin hearing Case 002/02.
The decision flew in the face of predictions by court observers and parties to the proceedings, many of whom had forecast that Case 002/01 would be the court’s last, and some of whom raised questions about legal issues arising from beginning a second trial before a decision had been rendered in the first.
In its rulings, the Supreme Court Chamber “instruct[ed] the Office of the Administration of the ECCC to immediately explore the establishment of a second panel”, and ordered that Case 002/02 “commence as soon as possible … [and] comprise at minimum the charges related to S-21, a work site, a cooperative and genocide”.
Panhavuth Long, a program officer at the Cambodian Justice Initiative, called the ruling “a very lousy decision”.
“I also wonder whether the SCC is violating its judicial jurisdiction,” he said, noting the higher chamber’s role as a decider of appeals. “Can you decide something that has not been asked by the prosecution or the defence?”
Prosecutor Andrew Cayley said in an email Monday that the prosecution had “concerns about starting a second trial before the first judgement is delivered, which will need to be adequately addressed”.
Lead civil party co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau-Fort also said via email Monday that civil parties “will not request” the formation of a new panel, and that financial constraints made the prospect “almost impossible”.
According to court spokesman Lars Olsen, national salaries have not been paid for June, and the court’s “national side has currently no funding”.
Logistically speaking, Panhavuth said, finding a new panel of judges in a few months while still going through official UN recruitment procedures may not be “realistic”, and he raised the question of “whether they can even find qualified judges, given what is going on here”.
Meanwhile, parties at the Khmer Rouge tribunal hashed out a bevy of lingering trial management issues yesterday, in what will be the court’s last public hearing until October 9, the tentative date for which closing arguments are scheduled.
After hearing submissions from all parties, the trial chamber issued a litany of on-the-spot decisions, saying no new — or old — witnesses would be called, and that all parties would be granted an additional 25 pages for their closing briefs, in light of the fact the court may yet admit a host of witness statements and Case 001 transcripts into evidence.