After holding his tongue during the morning session of the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, Nuon Chea defence counsel Michiel Pestman said he was “forced” to speak out about alleged political interference in the court, as no other parties appeared willing to raise it.
Referring to the candid resignation letter tendered by UN-nominated reserve co-investigating judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet last week, Pestman said: “No organ in this court is immune from political meddling by the Cambodian government and . . . this Trial Chamber is no exception.”
Pestman announced he would again file a motion, as he did three times last year, for the Trial Chamber to investigate allegations of political interference in Case 002.
The three filings were rejected last September, and Pestman said he doubted a new filing would achieve a different result.
“Sadly, we do this knowing our motion will be rejected,” he said, appealing to the two international judges of the Trial Chamber, Silvia Cartwright and Jean-Marc Lavergne, to “save the case” by dissenting from their Cambodian colleagues and encouraging an investigation.
“Every day you fail to act . . . this trial will spiral further away from the ideal the ECCC was designed to promote,” Pestman warned. “There comes a point where silence and inaction and the deliberate avoidance of difficult decisions evolves into complicity.”
Counsel for Khieu Samphan echoed Pestman’s criticisms, saying the “revelations” in Kasper-Ansermet’s note “justify further investigation”.
“The pressure that’s been exercised on this court [has] soiled the work of this court since its establishment,” Arthur Vercken said.
Although absent from this exchange, Ieng Sary defence counsel Michael Karnavas later accused deputy co-prosecutor William Smith of leading the witness, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, and treating his testimony as expert.
“The prosecution wants to turn this gentleman [Duch] into an expert through his testimony. To simply suggest that he [Duch] is this fountain of information . . . is nonsense and ridiculous,” Karnavas said.
Defence counsel have challenged Duch’s testimony on the basis he is recounting post-regime research and not eye-witness accounts.
Duch detailed yesterday the “report lines” within S-21, the notorious prison he has been sentenced to life imprisonment for directing.
Duch said he had had to report to Nuon Chea “every three days or [at the least] once every five days”.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Lynch at [email protected]