Today's hearing is largely procedural, but will set important precedents for the trial proper, court officials say, adding that this first proceeding is a ‘learning process'
Tune In Media schedule
Follow the Duch trial live on the following television and radio stations:
- TVK Broadcasting from 8:45am
- CTN Offering a summary of the proceedings at 9am and again in the afternoon
- National radio Will also broadcast reports from TVK from 8:45am
Suivre l’audience initiale pour Duch diffusé en direct sur les cha?nes de télévisions et de radio:
- TVK Diffusion à partir de 8:45am
- CTN Faire le sommaire d’événements à 9am et encore dans l’après-midi
- Radio Nationale va diffuser aussi des émissions de TVK à partir de 8:45am
MORE than 1,000 people were expected to descend on the grounds of the Khmer Rouge tribunal this morning for what has been called a procedural but symbolic start to its first trial.
As anticipation has mounted, legal experts have begun speculating on what will unfold during the hearing and what it will mean for the ensuing trial of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch.
Although no witnesses will be called to testify at today's initial hearing, experts say it is likely to set the course for the ensuing trial, mapping out any legal or logistical hurdles that remain unresolved.
"From a strictly legal perspective, the key thing to watch will be whether submissions or challenges get flagged early and any issues regarding civil party participation get ironed out as soon as possible,"
Michelle Staggs Kelsall, deputy director of the Asian International Justice Initiative at the East-West Centre, a court monitor, told the Post Monday.
She said the opening stages of trials at previous international tribunals have focused on preliminary issues, such as when testimony will begin, how many witnesses will be called and how many days the court will sit. Jurisdictional challenges, such as the issue of "prosecutorial discretion", are also often raised early on, she said.
She said other courts have raised the issue of prosecutorial discretion, meaning that the manner in which the mandate of the court is being applied has been called into question during opening proceedings.
"Arguably, Duch is not one of those most responsible if you consider the crimes that occurred under the Khmer Rouge as a whole. The defence may raise this," she said.
She added that defence attorneys may argue that the statute of limitations for his domestic offences might have already expired.
Though the largely procedural questions expected to be at the heart of today's hearing might underwhelm those expecting a substantive trial to begin, the court's spokespeople said they were confident those with high expectations for the hearing would not be disappointed.
"On the contrary, I think they'll be excited," spokesman Reach Sambath told the Post.
International Co-prosecutor Robert Petit said he hoped the recent flurry of attention would not dissipate when the potentially laborious process begins.
"Tuesday's hearing will allow the court to put a very public face on its proceedings, but the focus is not on the substantive but rather on the procedural, so hopefully the public's expectations are realistic," he said by email.
He added that observers should expect the court, which is legally and procedurally experimental, to grow into its role as its first trial plays out on the public stage.
"Obviously, this will be for all parties a learning process and will no doubt improve as the trial moves forward," Petit said.
The greatest experiment in the court is the role of victims in the trial. It is the first time in history that the rules of an international tribunal of this kind give victims the possibility to participate legally as civil parties.
Keat Bophal, director of the court's Victims Unit, said she was confident the court would meet the challenges posed by this innovation.
"Victim participation is important not only for the legacy of the court but also in setting a precedent for other tribunals," she said. "We want it to succeed and it to be meaningful."
Though she said she could not predict what today's hearing would reveal, she said she hoped it would advance this goal.
"It is very important for victims of the Khmer Rouge that they can participate in these proceedings," she said. "So far, we have been moving with no problems."
Lawyers for the accused say they were ready to face the court. "I'm ready to defend my client in the hearing and demand justice for my client based on institutional law and ECCC law," Duch's Cambodian co-lawyer Kar Savuth said.
"I also hope the ECCC will find the facts to provide real justice to the people who died in Pol Pot's time and the people who survived the cruelty of the regime," he said.
He said he believed the court as a whole was ready as well, a point with which Reach Sambath concurred.
"It is going to be a big day," Reach Sambath said. "[But] the judges, prosecutors, lawyers, civil parties, they are all ready," he added.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA
Khmer Rouge in the dock: The Accused
Known as the regime's chief ideologist, "Brother No 2" Nuon Chea was in charge of training, internal party organisation and propaganda for the regime, occasionally serving as acting prime minister and rarely straying from Pol Pot's side. He was born in Battambang in 1927 and studied in Thailand, where he joined the Communist Party of Thailand. Nuon Chea was arrested in Pailin province in September 2007, and later charged with crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Though he has consistently denied responsibility for the mass killing committed by the regime, he told the Associated Press in 2004 that his affiliation with it had been "a mistake". He is represented by Son Arun, Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe.
A native of Svay Rieng province, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan studied with Pol Pot and Ieng Sary in Paris in the 1950s. After returning to Cambodia, he taught mathematics and also founded and edited a French-language newspaper, L'Observateur, that focused on political and economic issues. He was named president of Democratic Kampuchea in 1976, and has been charged with crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. He is represented by Jacques Verges, famous for his defence of terrorists and war criminals including the Nazi Klaus Barbie. Like Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan has appealed the November extension of his detention. A public hearing has been scheduled for February 27.
As the regime's foreign minister, Ieng Sary served as its representative to the outside world, travelling overseas and receiving foreign visitors. He was born in southern Vietnam and came to Phnom Penh to study, where he first became exposed to Marxist-Leninist literature. He met Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot, in 1947. The two men would go on to study in Paris in the 1950s. Although he was sentenced to death in absentia by a Vietnamese-backed trial in 1979, he received a pardon from the King in 1991. Along with his wife, Ieng Sary is currently appealing the recent one-year extension of his detainment, for which a hearing has been scheduled for February 26. He is represented by Ang Udom and Michael Karnavas, and charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The daughter of a Battambang judge, Ieng Thirith was a teacher before she became the regime's minister of social affairs under Khieu Samphan. She married former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary in 1953 while they were studying in Paris along with her sister, Khieu Ponnary, and her sister's husband, Pol Pot. She was arrested on November 12, 2007, and charged with crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, imprisonment and "other inhumane acts". The tribunal extended her detention for one year last November, rejecting her request for house arrest. She has since appealed that decision. A hearing has been scheduled for February 24. She is represented by Phat Pouv Seang and Diana Ellis.