Closing statements in Case 002/02 against Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea began yesterday, with civil party lawyers relating the harrowing experiences of their clients and delivering an impassioned defence of the vital role of civil parties at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Case 002/02 is the second trial of the Khmer Rouge second-in-command Chea and his co-defendant Samphan, the former head of state of Democratic Kampuchea. The case features charges of genocide against the ethnic Cham and Vietnamese, forced marriage, internal purges and crimes against humanity at security centres like S-21 and work sites like the Trapeang Thma Dam.
During the first half of the day, national civil party lawyers presented a highlight reel of horrors, reading aloud quotations and screening clips of some of the most relevant civil party testimony.
“The aim of today’s presentation is to show how civil party evidence can assist the trial chamber in characterising the material elements of the various crimes for which the accused are indicted,” National Lead Co-Lawyer Pich Ang said as the session began.
To that end, the team played a clip of testimony from civil party Say Sen, who was tasked with dragging dead bodies to a mass burial grave at the Kraing Ta Chan security centre.
“They were shackled and cuffed . . . they could not eat any rice or gruel . . . I counted up to 18 days when the person went without food and died,” said Sen.
Others were taken out and executed.
“They were ordered to kneel, then they used a hoe to hit the back of their neck . . . After they completed the day’s killing, I was ordered to collect the clothes.”
Refuting the defence’s contention that atrocities under Democratic Kampuchea were the result of rogue cadre, civil party lawyer Chet Vanly said these types of killings were part of a “plan and policy of the accused”, pointing to the fact that executions were carried out in similar fashions in crime sites nationwide.
Fellow civil party lawyer Hong Kim Suon turned to the subject of the persecution of the Cham, reading the testimony of a civil party whose father died emaciated and alone as a result of the regime’s mistreatment of the largely Muslim minority.
“My father died because he was a Cham person who adhered to his religious practices . . . They forced him to eat pork, but he refused. So Angkar gave him last warning that he had to eat pork, and if he could not then there would be nothing for him to eat,” the civil party was quoted as saying.
International Lead Co-Lawyer Marie Guiraud then spoke at length about the charge of forced marriage.
She noted that the existence of forced marriages has not been challenged by any parties, including the defence, and attempted to establish that the marriages were not free and fully consented to, and therefore a violation of Article 16 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Guiraud quoted and screened testimony establishing that disobeying the regime was frequently met with death, torture or disappearance. Others testified that they had no say in picking their partner, were monitored by militiamen and even raped if they refused to consummate. “These are grave breaches to human dignity,” Guiraud said, before attacking defence lawyers for claiming the forced marriages were “nothing other than arranged marriages, and [the Khmer Rouge] replaced [the] parents”.
“The defence argues that if we constitute that a crime was committed, that would be tantamount to condemning arranged marriages,” she continued. “Did the future spouses give their full and free consent to Angkar to be married? The evidence shows that the contrary is the case.”
“The purpose of this oral presentation is to show that the civil parties . . . can contribute to the manifestation of the truth and help the chamber to establish that the crimes were effectively committed,” Guiraud added, turning her attention to the defence’s attempts to discredit civil parties in general.
The Nuon Chea defence team has frequently questioned the authority of civil party testimony, both because the parties are not required to swear an oath prior to testifying, and because they often contradict their own testimony.
Guiraud, however, forcefully argued that civil parties are a legal necessity, given that they are part of the Cambodian legal system, though she conceded that civil parties are likely to have experienced a “higher range” of abuse than the average Cambodian experienced.
Nonetheless, she said, the assertion that civil party testimony is not as reliable because it isn’t given under oath is “simply wrong”. “Civil parties are parties, just as the defendants. They therefore do not take an oath when they come to testify before this Chamber . . . not because the Civil Parties do not wish to take an oath, but because they cannot, just as Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan cannot.”
Closing statements will continue today.