No Local And Foreign Lawyers Registers At the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Yet

Posted by khmernews on July 17, 2007

Recently, Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s officials have claimed that the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders will be held in early 2008. However, some observers and officials of civil society organizations believe that the trials won’t be able to be carried out in early 2008 as the plan. For instance, a KRT’s official has lately hinted that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal might have run out of funds by April 2008.

KRT’s and Cambodian Bar Association’s officials claimed on Monday that there had been no local or foreign lawyers registering to represent defendants in Khmer Rouge court yet although the problem of foreign lawyer registration fees has been solved. CBA Spokesman Nou Tharith said the reason that there were no lawyers registering at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal was that the Defense Support Section’s administrative rules or documents for evaluating the application forms were still only a draft.

Rupert Skilbeck, head of the Defense Support Section of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), has accepted that those documents have not been finished yet, but has said they will have been complete by the end of July. Since some lawyers haven’t gathered evidence to defend their clients, they are not valid to be lawyers in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal whereas co-prosecutors are actively collecting evidence and finding witnesses. According to its annual reports, the Office of Prosecutors of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal has collected 5,500 pages of evidence already.

Kar Savuth, defender of Kang Khek Iev, known as Duch, former chief of Tuol Sleng (S-21) torture center, claimed that he was having difficulties in finding evidence to defense his client. “I don’t have any document since when the Military Prison sent me a letter to search for documents in a center near the Independence Monument, I was not allowed to enter. Although I had the letter from the Military Prison, I was not allowed to enter. Even documents,  the Khmer Rouge lawyer was not allowed to see,” said Kar Savuth.

However, Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) denied the claim and said that he was always welcoming all the research on the Khmer Rouge documents in his documentary center. “I have never refused someone [to enter] and have never received his letter, and if he needs [the documents], he can come at anytime.” 

The lawyers must demonstrate competence in criminal law at a national and international level, the statement said, adding that foreign lawyers are also required to have at least 10 years of relevant experience
According to the internal rules of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, foreign lawyers who wish to represent their clients in Khmer Rouge court must have at least 10 year experience as a lawyers, judges, or prosecutors in criminal law at a national and international level and must register at the Cambodian Bar Association and have pay the contribution of $500. Nou Tharith claimed that Cambodian lawyers who have undergone training course conducted by the CBA have priorities to apply. However, it is not sure whether the registration of Cambodian and foreign lawyers faces any problem or not since the ECCC has, so far, met many obstructions.

Former Khmer Rouge leaders have been condemned for the mass killings of 1.7 million Cambodian during their terrific rules from April 17, 1975 to early January, 1979. Up to present, Khang Kek Iev, known as Duch, former Toul Sleng (S-21) torture center’s chief, is the only Khmer Rouge leader who is being detained in Military Prison awaiting trials after Chhit Choeun, commonly known as Ta Mok, died of illnesses in Preah Ket Mealea on July 21, 2006. Besides, other former Khmer Rouge leaders including Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith are living freely.

Cambodian people living both inside and outside Cambodia want the trials of the former Khmer Rouge leaders to be held as soon as possible to find the masterminds who created the Khmer Rouge and to reveal the reasons of massacre of 1.7 million Cambodian people during the Killing Fields. Especially, they want to know which one between the pro-Chinese Khmer Rouge and pro-Vietnamese Khmer Rouge got involved in the killings. More especially, they want to know the countries that supported the Killing Fields in Cambodia although the Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s law doesn’t talk about related countries.

Some civil society organizations’ officials and independent observers analysed that the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders might not be able to start in early 2008 as the plan although the internal rules have been adopted. As the matter of fact, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is facing budgetary shortfalls and the lawyer registration hasn’t been started yet. It can be said that the ECCC will be stalled if the UN and the Cambodian government cannot find enough funds.

Analysts have criticized that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is becoming somewhat of a joke and for this reason, Cambodian people might not sense ‘real’ justice. Moreover, if the trials are still delayed, the aging leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime will have died before the trials take place and the expense of $56.3 million will be useless, and, therefore, the efforts spent by the UN and the Cambodian government will be worthless too.

Informal Translation
-Extracted from Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, vol.14, #3083, Wednesday, July 11, 2007.


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