Defence lawyers are calling for an at-times damning tell-all by former international co-investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde to be admitted as evidence in Case 002, arguing that the new book details ample proof of political interference by the Cambodian government.
“The Lemonde Book establishes that, contrary to its public proclamations, the Royal Government of Cambodia does not and has never respected the independence of the ECCC,” lawyers for Nuon Chea argue in their motion.
Published in January, Un juge face aux Khmers rouges has been released only in French and is not widely available in Cambodia. The filing submitted to the Supreme Court Chamber on Friday and released yesterday contains the first known English translations of sections of Lemonde’s book and suggests the publication confirms “the absence of meaningful judicial independence at the ECCC”.
Last year, the short-lived and embattled international co-investigating judge, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, resigned, saying he had been stonewalled from investigating the government-opposed Cases 003 and 004. Upon his departure, Kasper-Ansermet issued a fiery memo detailing the lengths to which he had been blocked by Cambodian and international staff, and government officials.
Lemonde’s book appears to confirm many of Kasper-Ansermet’s claims of government interference, the lawyers argue.
“It is clear that behind the Cambodian judges there are people pulling strings from within the government,” writes the French judge, who held the position from 2006 to 2010 and was the court’s longest-serving international co-investigating judge.
“Much later I realised that they were one step ahead of us, as they were preparing for the need to obstruct any proceedings that might be considered politically embarrassing,” reads another passage.
Shortly after Kasper-Ansermet’s departure, lawyers for Nuon Chea turned to his memo as proof positive of meddling and called for an investigation and a stay in proceedings. The Trial Chamber rejected the appeal, calling it “almost entirely repetitious” and suggesting that such filings “may jeopardize the Accused’s right to an expeditious trial”.
An appeal was filed with the court’s highest body, but the book surfaced only after. In addition to the Kasper-Ansermet note, the lawyers had relied heavily on the nonappearance of six high-ranking government officials summonsed to give testimony as evidence of meddling.
They argued that the Le-monde book “conclusively proves that the failure of the late King Father Sihanouk, Heng Samrin, Chea Sim, Hor Namhong, Keat Chhon, Sim Ka and Ouk Bunchhoeun to respond to Judge Lemonde’s efforts to obtain their testimony infringed Rule 35.”
In his book, Lemonde details months pushing his national counterpart, Judge You Bunleng, to issue summonses before giving up and issuing them alone “only to encounter delay and obstruction on the part of the witnesses”, the lawyers write.
The series of events “establishes beyond any doubt that the witnesses themselves interfered with the administration of justice … It also raises a substantial likelihood that the same witnesses were pressured not to testify by members of the Cambodian government.”
Nearly a year after the Nuon Chea team called for a legal remedy – only to see it thrown out by the Trial Chamber – there appears to be forward motion. In a memo to the co-investigating judges, Supreme Court Chamber President Kong Srim asked “to be informed of what, if any, formal action was taken in response to the allegations of interference in Cases 003 and 004.”
Whether the revelations in the Lemonde book will be the tipping point for such an investigation, however, remains to be seen. Though defence teams and independent trial monitors made numerous calls for such action following the Kasper-Ansermet allegations, none has occurred.
At the very least, noted Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, “the Supreme Court Chamber appears to be intending to write a very thorough decision on this”.
Noting that the statements from Lemonde’s book echo public comments he’s made in the past, Heindel said they would doubtless buttress both Kasper-Ansermet’s claims and the defence arguments regarding interference in the summonsing of government witnesses.
“Whether it’s the tipping point, I don’t know. But it certainly provides more information. If there’s a pattern of behaviour, it needs to be investigated in regards to its impact on Case 002.”