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Prosecution closes with proverb

Co-prosecutors Chea Leang (left) and her deputy Seng Bunkheang (right), at the closing statement for Case 002/02 last week.
Co-prosecutors Chea Leang (left) and her deputy Seng Bunkheang (right), at the closing statement for Case 002/02 last week. ECCC

Prosecution closes with proverb

Rebuttals at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday turned from law to folklore, where, for the last time, the prosecution presented their case for why former leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan should be found guilty of crimes against humanity.

Former Brother Number Two Chea and head of state Samphan stand accused of a slew of crimes, including murder, extermination, genocide and other inhumane acts, such as forced marriage.

Chiding the defence for their invocation of a Khmer proverb to cast the Khmer Rouge leaders as a goat blamed by a farmer for eating his food, when in fact a monkey (or, in this case, the Vietnamese) had framed the goat by smearing food on its face, Assistant Prosecutor Dale Lysak said the proverb would have taken on a dark twist if set during the Khmer Rouge regime.

“Fortunately for that goat, the farmer who found him with food on his face was not Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan or Pol Pot,” Lysak said.

The Khmer Rouge leaders would not have just blamed the goat – they would have “smashed” the goat, arrested the monkey for espionage and sedition, and killed all their offspring, he said.

“That is the sad reality of how things worked in Democratic Kampuchea,” Lysak added, referring to the “callous disregard for life” of the two accused. “It is a story I hope is never repeated in this country again.”

Prior to Lysak’s stand, Co-Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian attempted to pour cold water on theories long espoused by the defence, namely that zone leaders Sao Phim and Rous Nhim had been plotting against Pol Pot.

Koumjian said Chea’s version of events was untrue and that actions taken by Phim made no sense if he was indeed plotting a military coup. Even if there was such a resistance, he added, that did not justify any of the extrajudicial execution under the Khmer Rouge.

He also slammed the defence’s use of a confession from the Khmer Rouge’s S-21 prison. Koumjian stressed that confessions gleaned under torture were not admissible as evidence, as they are inherently unreliable and could encourage the use of torture.

“He should not be allowed to try again to profit from the blood of those who were tortured at S-21 and other security centres,” Koumjian said, referring to Chea.

He argued Samphan and Chea were well aware of the horrific conditions the people of Democratic Kampuchea were subjected to, and showed a video of Chea saying that when he realised simple villagers were being slaughtered en masse, he said, “I just went on with my work and I didn’t jot it down,” and laughed.

Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang defended the court’s reputation against claims of bias, which have featured prominently over the past week during the defence’s closing statements. “No one who reads the appeal judgment, which made several findings highly favourable to the accused, could believe this court was set up with a pre-determined outcome,” Leang said.

The appeal judgment for the first trial against the pair, handed down last year, ultimately upheld their life sentences, but overturned some convictions, finding that they were not guilty of extermination, nor of murder or political persecution at one crime site, she noted.

In closing, Leang issued a heartfelt thanks to the witnesses and victims who came forward. “Thank you for your courage,” she said.

“You are the real heroes of this case, and your contribution serves the cause of justice for all victims, including the many who cannot testify because they lost their lives during that regime.”

Samphan is today due to make his final statements. A verdict is then expected by mid 2018.

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