The trial chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal issued an ultimatum to defendant Khieu Samphan yesterday: Instruct your counsel, by 4:30 this afternoon, to end their boycott of Case 002/02, or face the consequences.
Alone in court yesterday, Samphan reiterated his team’s position that it is impossible for them to fully participate in hearings in Case 002/02 while simultaneously preparing their appeal in Case 002/01, which ended in August with both defendants sentenced to life in prison.
Trial chamber president Nil Nonn, for his part, reiterated the chamber’s position that “while you have a right to be assisted by a lawyer of your choice, that right is not absolute”.
Should Samphan fail to reverse his boycott by this afternoon, he continued, the chamber would either appoint new counsel to represent the 83-year-old Khmer Rouge head of state, or designate his chosen attorneys, Arthur Vercken and Anta Guisse, as court-appointed lawyers, a move that would oblige them to abide by trial chamber orders.
“The misconduct of counsel will be the subject of a separate order,” Nonn added.
Samphan responded directly to the chamber’s ultimatum yesterday, saying that appointing new counsel who may not be familiar with the case file or his defence strategy “might interfere with the defence of my rights,” and refuted speculation that his boycott was simply a stalling tactic.
“In your judgement in Case 002/01, you sentenced me to life in prison,” he said. “There is no reason for me to delay the proceedings.”
Samphan defender Vercken yesterday said the team would stick to its plan to focus on the Case 002/01 appeal until December 29, and characterised the court’s actions as yet another example of judicial overreach.
“Never before a court overseen by the UN has dared to behave this way with the defense: cutting microphones, interrupting pleadings, [distorting] rules of law to fix their errors, the list is very long,” Vercken said in an email. “Today, to me, they are not anymore judges.”
A ruling last week dismissing the teams’ motions to disqualify the current judges ended a simultaneous boycott by the Nuon Chea defence.
President Nonn said yesterday that court would reconvene on November 24.