PROCEEDINGS at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday were dominated by a lengthy indictment of the fairness of the court’s documentary presentations by Khieu Samphan defender Arthur Verken, with the heated debate giving way to the introduction of star witness Stephen Heder in the late afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Nuon Chea had weighed in with his own criticisms of the court’s documentary procedures, saying he was “stunned” at the shoddy evidentiary quality of most of the documents, saying they were “nothing short of hearsay”, and that the numerous books written by academics and experts had been embellished to bolster sales.
“In general, in order to make the books convince the readers, the authors had to apply some of their methodology and techniques to make sure people want to read their books. With that, the truth is compromised,” he said.
“If the chamber relies on these hearsay pieces of evidence, then I don’t think it can find justice for every one of us,” he added, ultimately requesting the “rejection of all the documents presented by the co-prosecution”.
Afterwards, Vercken launched into his own attack against documentary evidence, saying the court’s refusal to allow documents to be challenged throughout the entire trial had been a major violation “of the most elemental rights of [his] client”.
“When I listen to the prosecution and the civil parties, I don’t feel like we’re taking part in a trial any more. I feel like we’re taking part in an international conference on the history of Cambodia,” Vercken said.
Khieu Samphan also offered his own rationale for refusing to participate in questioning, saying first that after seeing his rights ignored, he had “no faith in the court”, reaffirming his decision even after the court intimated that it would consider acquiescing on a number of demands he made earlier.
“There are other legal implications behind this decision, and I may only refer to one of them. There have been attempts to prevent my counsels from properly or fully and meaningfully representing me in this case,” he said, referring to limits placed on closing briefs considered unfair by the defence.
In the same vein, Vercken went on to add that in the absence of “adversarial” hearings on documents, the allotted 100 pages for closing briefs was simply inadequate to challenge the tens of thousands of pages admitted before the court.
Vercken, however, offered little in the way of criticism for specific documents, prompting prosecutor Tarik Abdulhak to gamely suggest that if Vercken was unprepared, he could simply ask for more time to prepare his hallenges.
Near the end of the session, the court briefly called to the stand academic and author Stephen Heder, who has researched Khmer Rouge history for numerous institutions since the early 1970s.
Heder’s impartiality has been questioned in the past due to the fact that he was once employed by the tribunal, both in the offices of the prosecution and the co-investigating judges. Heder’s testimony will resume tomorrow.