With a delay recently projected in the final appeal judgment for co-accused Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, concerned lawyers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have stressed that time is of the essence when dealing with the elderly defendants.
A judgment on the Case 002/01 appeal was expected by the end of June at the latest, but the latest revision of the court’s completion plan, published on their website on April 28, predicts that it now will be delivered around mid-August.
The revised plan prompted Marie Guiraud, the international co-lawyer representing civil parties, to write to the court saying that “any delay was concerning”, as both the civil parties and the accused are ageing. Nuon Chea is 89, and Khieu Samphan is 84.
She said that civil parties – recognised victims of the regime who give evidence and are entitled to collective and symbolic reparations – have been a part of the court proceedings since 2007.
“Many have reached an advanced age, and more than 50 civil parties have died during the course of the case 002/01 trial and appeal,” Guiraud wrote in her letter. “We therefore urge that a final judgement in case 002/01 be delivered without delay.”
The Supreme Court Chamber in February this year reiterated that until a judgment is reached on the appeal, the accused are presumed innocent.
But tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said the completion plan should not be regarded as a timeline of court dates to be adhered to, but a series of projections to help with budgeting and logistics.
“I don’t think it’s correct to say it’s a delay; it’s a revision,” he said. “It’s always difficult to make an exact projection about how long things will take.”
“Generally, we are dealing with ageing defendants and ageing victims, but at the same time, it is not possible to cut corners on the judicial process . . . regardless of the age of the defendants,” he added.
Victor Koppe, defence lawyer for Nuon Chea, whose boycott of the appeal proceedings was partially blamed for the delay, said he was not concerned about the time lag.
Koppe said the outcome of the appeal was “irrelevant” for his client as the Supreme Court Chamber had dismissed certain evidence and witnesses, chief among them current National Assembly president and former Khmer Rouge cadre Heng Samrin.
The completion plan indicates the trial phase in the ongoing Case 002/02 will be finished by the end of 2017, with the judicial investigations into Case 003 suspect Meas Muth and Case 004/01 against Im Chaem due to conclude by the end of this year.