Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Brother No. 2 hearing edges forward

Brother No. 2 hearing edges forward

Brother No. 2 hearing edges forward

AFP

From left, Dutch defense attorney Victory Kroppe and Cambodian defense attorney Son Arun represent former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea February 4 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Leaning heavily on his cane, Brother Number Two limped up to

the dock, occasionally hoisted along by a security guard who held him firmly under

the arm.

Under the fluorescent lights of the courtroom Nuon Chea’s

skin assumed the papery translucence of the very old. His 82 years sit heavy on

him, but his hooded eyes are bright and roamed across the members of the pre-trial

chamber as the proceeding commenced.

“I have no desire to leave my beloved country,” he told the

court, explaining why he was not a flight risk and should not be obliged to

remain in pre-trial detention. He added that he had been living in “peace and

harmony” in Pailin prior to his arrest and was not afraid for his safety should

he be released.

After a three day delay – the hearing was scheduled for

February 4 but the Cambodian Bar Association only swore-in Dutch lawyer Victor

Koppe on February 6 – Nuon Chea’s appeal against his pre-trial detention

resumed February 7.

The defense team began by questioning why civil parties

should be allowed to participate in the current hearing. 

Wearing a crisp dark-grey shirt with two pens neatly clipped

to the left pocket, the most senior surviving leader of the Khmer Rouge regime

sat placidly chewing the inside of his cheeks as his Cambodian lawyer, Son

Arun, pursued the line of questioning.

Koppe and Arun argued that the civil parties had no

fundamental right to be present at the hearing and should not be allowed to

make oral submissions.

Co-prosecutor Robert Petit argued that civil parties should

be allowed to participate. He asked that in future that when the defense made

legal arguments of this nature they provide all parties with copies of the

relevant documents, but went on to “strongly urge” the pre-trial chamber to

allow the proceedings go ahead.

The lawyers for the civil parties also said they should be

permitted to participate and requested the proceedings not be adjourned.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said there were three

lawyers representing four civil parties – one lawyer representing two

unidentified civil parties, and the other the other two representing one civil

party each: Theary Seng and Sok Sam Oeun.

After several hours of debate, the pre-trial chamber judges allowed

the hearing to go ahead with the civil parties’ participation but they said a

decision on the fundamental issue of their participation would be made before

they issue a ruling on Nuon Chea’s appeal against his pre-trial detention.

Koppe, who sat mute during the February 4 hearing, spoke for

the first time in court to support Arun’s argument. The Dutch lawyer’s request to

work as an attorney in Cambodia

was approved November 5, but he was not sworn in by the CBA on February 1

because he committed what the CBA called a “major offense” in signing judicial

documents before being officially sworn in.

“If we let people act as

lawyers before they swore them it would set a very bad precedent,” said Ly

Tayseng, CBA spokesman. “He formally recognized his mistake and officially

apologized to the Bar Council. He was sworn in [February 6].”

Koppe said he accepted there

had been a misunderstanding and that he had apologized for it.

Tayseng added that he was unsurprised by the widespread allegations

that the incident was politically motivated because the document Koppe signed

was a controversial request to disqualify pre-trial chamber judge Ney Thol.

“People don’t look at the law and they criticize. All

lawyers in all countries must swear in before they practice their legal profession,”

Tayseng said. “But we see the importance of the ECCC [and] it is very important

that Koppe participates so this was why after carefully examining this case we

decided to swear him in.”

For many at the court

– even those members of the public allowed into the pre-trial chamber itself

rather than forced to watch proceedings in the still unfinished main courtroom

– the arguments proved somewhat impenetrable.

“These arguments are

for legal professionals,” said Youk Chhang, director of the DocumentationCenter

of Cambodia

(DC-Cam).

The process is crucial,

Chhang said. “We can use ECCC to bring about the healing process, it is part of

restoring our humanity and it is very significant,” he said. 

The appeal hearing will continue February 8 at 9am.

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