Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KRT’s second sub-trial to begin

KRT’s second sub-trial to begin

A group of Cambodian men and women wait to take part in a mass wedding ceremony organised by Khmer Rouge
A group of Cambodian men and women wait to take part in a mass wedding ceremony organised by Khmer Rouge officials at an undisclosed location in the late 1970s. DC-CAM

KRT’s second sub-trial to begin

The first hearing of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Case 002/02 was to be held today, marking the start of the sub-trial in which the gravest charges levied against the Democratic Kampuchea regime’s senior-most leaders will be heard.

With Case 002/01 – the first sub-trial in the court’s case against Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – having wrapped up last year and a verdict due on August 7, the court is to begin today to hammer out the logistics of hearing much of the remainder of the Case 002 indictment.

While Case 002/01 drew criticism for its relatively narrow focus, the scope of the case beginning today will include the allegations most commonly associated with the regime in the popular discourse.

Charges relating to genocide against the Vietnamese and the Cham, security centres such as the notorious S-21, the persecution of Buddhists and forced marriages and rape – among others – will all be on the table.

Much of the hearing, according to court legal communications officer Lars Olsen, will concern itself with setting that table.

“The parties will be invited to submit their views on the proposed witnesses from various parties. They will be discussing the sequencing of the trial; that is, when the different allegations will be heard.

And there will also be a discussion of the availability of the parties in terms of when they can start the evidentiary hearings,” Olsen said.

Under the prosecution’s proposed sequencing plan, Case 002/02 would “be divided into phases that focus on different joint criminal enterprise policies”, according to a May filing. The first segment would deal with the role of the defendants, before proceeding on to security centres, the treatment of the Vietnamese and Cham, worksites and, finally, forced marriage.

“The main point we wish to get across is that we are pleased that the Chamber has the second trial officially underway,” prosecutor William Smith said in an email yesterday. “We will assist it as much as we can to accomplish all the necessary practical steps to start the evidentiary hearings as soon as possible.”

The Khieu Samphan defence, however, has contested the characterisation that its client was involved in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE), and will have the opportunity to make its case again. According to Olsen, the Samphan team will be permitted to make a submission seeking clarification on the extent to which Case 002/01 will serve as a foundation for 002/02.

In the previous case, the prosecution repeatedly argued that the policies of the JCE to which the defendants belonged had resulted in the catastrophe of Democratic Kampuchea. If Case 002/01 is indeed to serve as a foundation in Case 002/02, a guilty verdict in that case could colour the evidence to be heard in the upcoming one.

However, Samphan defender Arthur Vercken argued in an email yesterday that the scope of Case 002/01 was too narrow to arrive at such a conclusion, and to do so would be to sacrifice justice “to the new god of emergency”.

“[A] condemnation on a global JCE, more than a strategical problem, would be a huge judicial [heresy],” Vercken said.

According to Olsen, parties today will also have a brief period to argue against particular allegations they may take issue with – that a charge of genocide, for example, should instead be classified as wilful killing.

“If the parties intend to make suggestions that some of these crimes should be classified as something other than what they are in the closing order, they will have time to do that,” Olsen said.

Civil party lawyers, he added, will also have the opportunity to make submissions on proposed reparations projects aimed at addressing the harm caused to victims by the regime’s policies.

Civil party representatives did not respond to requests for comment as of press time yesterday, but ideas such as providing access to mental health services, and vocational training for the children of forced marriages have been floated at recent planning meetings.

Though today’s hearing represents the start of a trial that many believe will be a years-long process, the uncertain situation of the court’s government-opposed Cases 003 and 004 has left some wondering whether Case 002/02 will be the tribunal’s last gasp.

“The definition of genocide justice is not defined by either the old or new trial,” said Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, whose research has been instrumental in the trial. “However . . . to many survivors, the curtain of the ECCC is being closed, and perhaps this is the end. It is a mix-feeling between despair and hope.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Forest rangers seek 1,210 rifles after serious attacks

    The Ministry of Environment sought permission from the Ministry of National Defence to arm municipal and provincial rangers with 1,210 rifles in response to one of its rangers being killed and two others critically assaulted while out on patrol in Mondulkiri and Kampong Thom provinces. In

  • Rainsy stopped in Paris from boarding Thai flight

    Airline officials at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday prevented Sam Rainsy from boarding his flight to Bangkok ahead of his announced return to Cambodia on Saturday. Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier in the day assured Phnom Penh residents that there would be

  • Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

    THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • Prayut indicates no entry into Thailand for CNRP’s Rainsy

    Cambodian government officials on Wednesday welcomed the position of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after he indicated that Sam Rainsy would not be allowed to return to Cambodia through Thailand. “According to our commitment to Asean, we will not interfere in each other’s internal