A tense atmosphere permeated the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, as proceedings adjourned ahead of schedule for the second day in a row amid disagreements surrounding the court’s legal procedures.
Both Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were present for the beginning of yesterday’s hearing after walkouts by both their defence teams the previous day over the prosecution’s use of “written records of interviews” (WRIs) in document presentations.
The defendants, who have been indicted on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, offered their support for their legal teams’ spontaneous decisions.
“This was the straw that broke the camel’s back . . . I want to make it clear now, I fully support the position of my defence counsel to leave the court room yesterday,” Chea told the court. “I have followed the proceedings very closely, and I have observed many witnesses [not speaking] the truth.”
Afterward, the trial chamber offered the defence the chance to put forth a legal argument for their boycott.
Instead, Chea defender Victor Koppe used his time to lash out at the chamber and the prosecution, sparing no words to demonstrate his annoyance.
“To be honest, [judge Jean-Marc Lavergne], I don’t really care what you think . . . I have nothing but contempt for the international judges of this tribunal,” Koppe said, admitting that he staged his walkout “without any legal justification”.
Arthur Vercken, the co-lawyer for Samphan’s defence team, joined the defence’s chorus of frustration and expressed his disapproval for the office of the co-prosecutor’s attempt to use interviews and records from cases 003 and 004 in Case 002/02.
“We have co-prosecutors that have been manipulating you [and] manipulating us,” Vercken said. “The co-prosecutor is using information that he obtains in cases 003 and 004, and introduces them in this case, where as normally, this should be completely prohibited.”
In between requests that the court warn Koppe over his inflammatory rhetoric, prosecutor William Smith questioned why it had taken so long for the defence to raise these concerns.
“The purpose of key document hearings is to highlight evidence the public may not have heard,” he said.
Civil party lead co-lawyer Marie Guiraud cited the recent death of Khmer Rouge “First Lady” Ieng Thirith as evidence that time was running out for the tribunal, and highlighted the need to move forward “with the participation of the defence and with the active participation of the defendants”.
Chamber president Nil Nonn adjourned court until Tuesday to allow time to decide how to move on with proceedings.