FORMER Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav has hired a Cambodian attorney to replace Francois Roux, the international co-lawyer he dismissed last month after breaking with him in stunning fashion during closing arguments of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s first case.
The Khmer Rouge jailer, better known as Duch, last week became the first person convicted at Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal, receiving a 30-year sentence for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. With credit for time already served in detention, he stands to spend roughly 19 more years in prison.
Although Duch reportedly wanted a Chinese lawyer to replace Roux – “He doesn’t want a lawyer from a free country to judge the communist people,” defence attorney Kar Savuth explained last month – he will settle for 41-year-old Kang Ritheary, a private practice attorney with the Asean International Law Group in Phnom Penh.
“Kaing Guek Eav had provided the Defence Support Section with certain criterions for the selection of an international co-lawyer,” United Nations court spokesman Lars Olsen said Friday.
“The Defence Support Section did not find any international lawyers that met those criterions. Therefore, Kaing Guek Eav chose instead to be represented by two Cambodian lawyers.”
Defendants at the tribunal are typically represented by one Cambodian and one international lawyer each, with some enlisting additional lawyers and consultants.
Kar Savuth said last week that Duch planned to appeal the judgment against him. Duch has also been a subject of investigation in the court’s second case, but a January order from the court’s Co-Investigating Judges indicated that he would not be indicted; as such, Kang Ritheary’s work with Duch will likely be limited to appeal proceedings before the Supreme Court Chamber.
Kang Ritheary served as an adviser to the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which has helped gather much of the evidence used by the tribunal, from 1997 to 2001. He served as a government lawyer from 1995 to 2001, according to a copy of his CV posted on the Asean International Law Group website.
Last month, prior to the verdict, the court announced that Duch had dismissed Francois Roux due to a “loss of confidence” in his representation. This followed the dramatic split from Roux by Duch and Kar Savuth during last November’s closing arguments, when the pair bucked the defence’s long-running strategy of expressing remorse and limited responsibility for the crimes committed at Tuol Sleng. Instead, they called for Duch’s acquittal and release, a turnabout that Roux later called a “bad surprise”.
Roux has since moved on to head the Defence Office at the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon.