The Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday officially concluded evidentiary hearings in its Case 002/02 – which brought an array of charges, including genocide, against two of the regime’s most senior leaders – but not without briefly debating a potential third trial against them.
Both the prosecution and defence teams yesterday said they never expected a second trial against former Brother Number Two Nuon Chea and ex-head of state Khieu Samphan to go ahead. But after 274 trial days that saw 114 witnesses and 63 victims testify over two years, Case 002/02 has completed a significant chapter, with closing statements set to be heard on June 5.
Last November, the court handed down an appeal decision upholding guilty verdicts and life sentences for the pair in Case 002/01 for crimes stemming from the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh. In addition to genocide against the Cham and Vietnamese, Case 002/02 covered forced marriages, internal purges and crimes committed at certain security centres and worksites.
However, Civil Party lawyer Marie Gui-raud yesterday called for clarity regarding a number of outstanding charges from a dozen more crime sites that remained in the Case 002 closing order but had not been addressed in either trial, despite the fact that 446 civil parties had been admitted as victims of those crimes.
“An important number of civil parties wish that the trial continues,” Guiraud said, but she added many thought non-judicial measures could address their need for justice and support.
She said a only minority, 34 of those 446, were admitted for the unaddressed crime sites alone, as most has also suffered other crimes against humanity covered in Case 002/01 and 002/02.
Her co-lawyer Pich Ang added that a “small” number wished for those charges to remain unheard, because “they do not want to recall the suffering they endured”.
But the spectre of a third trial in the al-ready prolonged case was anathema to both prosecution and defence.
Nuon Chea’s defence lawyer Victor Koppe said in the “highly unlikely scenario” that there was a third case against his 90-year-old client, the judges should be replaced because “all judges in this chamber have shown extreme bias”.
“If there is to be a third trial, God forbid, there should be other judges appointed,” Koppe said.
Additionally, he said a hypothetical third trial should include charges pertaining to the East Zone’s Kroch Chhmar site, which he maintained would implicate current high-ranking government officials.
Khieu Samphan defender Anta Guisse said it was impossible to conduct another trial fairly in a reasonable timeframe so the remaining charges must be abandoned. “You don’t have any other choice but to put an end to the proceedings,” she argued.
Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, meanwhile, said the case was the biggest since the Nuremberg trials, and while not every Khmer Rouge security centre had been covered, each charge – of murder, extermination, genocide, rape and others had been heard. “It’s impossible to cover every crime against every victim,” he said, highlighting that while there were 3,860 civil parties, there were millions of victims of the brutal regime. “We think it simply does not make sense to continually try this case until everyone is deceased.”
Two defendants in Case 002 have died since proceedings began, as have 200 civil parties, while an additional 400 are deemed too elderly to actively participate.