The prosecution took the Khmer Rouge tribunal Trial Chamber to task in an appeal of the court’s recent decision to re-sever Case 002 filed on May 10, criticising its ruling’s failure to grasp “the fundamental nature or theme” of the case itself.
In failing to add the notorious S-21 detention centre, the new severance order – identical to the old one – “effectively terminates the prosecution of the accused for the most serious charges of the Indictment, including the arrest, detention, torture and execution of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians at the network of security centres across Democratic Kampuchea”, the prosecution said in its filing.
The prosecution went on to criticise the Trial Chamber’s largely time-based rationale for leaving S-21 out, arguing the chamber itself had been found wanting in its time management skills, echoing critiques previously raised by the defence.
“It was also an error and abuse of discretion to base the exclusion of S-21 on the purported time or delay associated with the trial of that crime site, when the Trial Chamber is failing to make use of all available trial days, as was directed by this Chamber,” the filing reads.
An annex attached to the appeal showed that, since it began, the court only sat an average of 9.5 days per month, despite theoretically being in session four days a week.
In one three-month stretch, from December 2011 through to February 2012, the Trial Chamber devoted 43 days to “judicial recess” and a further nine for document hearings, in which already-approved documents are read aloud in court.
Michael Karnavas, a former defence lawyer for deceased co-accused Ieng Sary, was also a critic of the court’s trial management, which he characterised as having caused undue delays.
There were “no meaningful trial management meetings prior to the commencement of the trial,” he said, and the single trial management meeting that was held beforehand was “too little, too late”.
What’s more, Karnavas continued, “there were wasteful procedural hearings from the very start of the trial”, including the document hearings cited by the prosecution.
“So, to get to the point, all the weeks spent on these hearings were unnecessary, causing delays in the taking of evidence,” he added.
Cambodian Justice Initiative program officer Panhavuth Long said that the parties aren’t the only ones upset at the Trial Chamber’s seeming mismanagement of its time.
“The victims are not very happy, looking at the way the Trial Chamber sits on the case,” he said.
According to Panhavuth, who also tracks hearing days, since the trial’s start, “the number of days they sit is less than the days that they spend on vacation”.
“It was not very good, especially when they know . . . the age of the accused,” he said. “The reason they did the severance order was that they wanted faster proceedings, but then they take this vacation. We are not happy.”