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New hearings begin

Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan (center) talks to his lawyer in the courtroom at the ECCC in Phnom Penh
Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan (center) talks to his lawyer in the courtroom at the ECCC in Phnom Penh yesterday. AFP/ECCC

New hearings begin

Evidentiary hearings in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Case 002/02 could come hot on the heels of the August 7 verdict in Case 002/01, starting as early as “late September”, parties to the proceedings confirmed at the case’s initial hearing yesterday.

When prompted by trial chamber president Nil Nonn to “explore the possibility of commencing evidentiary hearings in late September”, national co-prosecutor Chea Leang said that her team had been waiting for the start of the case and would be available through 2015.

Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe concurred, and new civil party lead co-lawyer Marie Guiraud said that her team could start in “September or October”. Khieu Samphan counsel Anta Guisse, however, reregistered her team’s position that the next case shouldn’t begin until lingering legal issues are resolved.

The potential time frame for opening Case 002/02 was just one of many glimpses of the upcoming trial offered by yesterday’s initial hearing.

Civil parties spent a portion of the morning session outlining potential reparations projects they intend to seek. “Bolstered by the lessons” of Case 002/01, in the words of Guiraud, the team laid out proposals for both physical and mental health initiatives, vocational training for the children of forced marriages and a plan to help Vietnamese civil parties regain Cambodian citizenship lost as a result of forced deportations under the Khmer Rouge.

Parties also obliquely referenced the imminent resignation of judge Silvia Cartwright, the first public acknowledgement of her long-rumoured departure. Court legal communications officer Lars Olsen confirmed yesterday that Cartwright had “resigned, effective the 1st of September”.

On the subject of the sequence of the trial, the prosecution and defence yesterday put forth essentially opposing plans. The prosecution argued that evidence of the roles of the accused in an alleged joint criminal enterprise (JCE) should be the first order of business, followed by segments pertaining to each charge.

Koppe, however, suggested ending the case on the subject of JCE, and beginning with evidence of international and internal armed conflicts in Democratic Kampuchea, hinting at the team’s plan to argue that the Khmer Rouge faced a legitimate security threat and was riven by rogue factions.

The nature of the conflict, he said, could “fundamentally affect the arguments parties may put forth” and was furthermore “at the very heart of our case”.

Yesterday’s session ended with prolonged wrangling over witness lists, most notably over three witnesses on the Nuon Chea defence team’s list who declined to appear when summonsed in Case 002/01 – senior government officials and former Khmer Rouge cadres Heng Samrin and Chea Sim, and former justice minister Ouk Bunchhoeun.

The refusal of government officials to answer summonses has long been a source of criticism for the court, but Leang, the national prosecutor, unilaterally objected to their inclusion in Case 002/02.

International co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, meanwhile, noted that he hadn’t objected to any of the defence’s witnesses.

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