Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea's first public hearing before Cambodia's genocide tribunal was postponed Monday amid a row over his legal team
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 3 Feb 2008 23:23:37 -0800 (PST)
KRouge's leader's detention hearing postponed
by Suy Se
1 hour, 45 minutes ago
PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea's first public hearing
before Cambodia's genocide tribunal was postponed Monday amid a row
over his legal team, court judges said.
A key member of Nuon Chea's defense, Dutch attorney Victor Koppe, has
yet to be admitted to Cambodia's Bar Association, a requirement for
foreign lawyers wishing to represent tribunal defendants.
Nuon Chea, the senior-most of the five Khmer Rouge cadre to be
arrested so far, argued earlier in the day that going ahead without
Koppe would violate international standards of justice.
"If I have only a Cambodian lawyer, it is not consistent with
international standards. I believe that if these proceedings go ahead,
it is not fair to me," the 81-year-old regime ideologue told tribunal
Nuon Chea, who was Khmer Rouge supreme leader Pol Pot's closest deputy
and the alleged architect of the regime's devastating execution
policies during its 1975-1979 rule, was arrested in September and
charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"The pre-trial chamber decided to adjourn the hearing to a later date
and ordered the lawyers of the charged person to submit a written
report about the presence of the international lawyer," the judges
The conflict over Koppe arose last week when the Bar Association
refused to admit him after he signed a court motion seeking the
dismissal of one of the pre-trial chamber judges, Ney Thol.
In his motion, Koppe accused Ney Thol, who is president of Cambodia's
military court, of being "neither independent nor impartial."
Bar officials said Koppe had signed the court documents before they
swore him in, violating the rule that foreign lawyers wishing to
represent tribunal defendants must be accepted by them before
conducting court business.
No new date has been set for Nuon Chea's appeal against his pre-trial
detention, the judges said, raising concerns over further delays to
the already sluggish court.
Had the hearing been held, it would have marked only the second public
hearing since the UN-backed tribunal was convened 18 months ago.
"The delay does not satisfy us," said Cambodian villager Huy Chhum,
one of the hundreds of spectators who gathered in the tribunal's main
courtroom to watch the hearing.
"So many delays will make villagers lose faith in the court and then
it is meaningless," said the 75-year-old whose wife, brother and son
perished under the regime.
Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were
executed by the Khmer Rouge, which dismantled modern Cambodian society
in its effort to forge a radical agrarian utopia.
Cities were emptied, their populations exiled onto vast collective
farms, while schools were closed, religion banned and the educated
classes targeted for extermination.
All of the former Khmer Rouge leaders currently in custody are elderly
and ill, and there are fears they could die before being put in the
Cambodia's genocide tribunal was convened in 2006 after nearly a
decade of fractious talks between the government and United Nations.
But it has been badly hampered by delays, amid infighting among
foreign and Cambodian judges as well as attempts by the Cambodian Bar
Association to assert its authority over foreign defense lawyers.
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