A Change of Guard

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Friday, 25 April 2008

Cambodia's genocide tribunal expects investigation for first case to be completed by July

Jacques Verges, the flamboyant French lawyer who represented many infamous terrorists and war criminals.
Associated Press Writer
AP - Friday, April 25

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Cambodia's genocide tribunal said Thursday it may complete an investigation of the first case against an indicted Khmer Rouge suspect by July.
The tribunal's investigation of Duch, the former chief of a torture center in Phnom Penh, could be followed by the start of his trial "at the beginning of the last quarter of 2008," said a tribunal statement.
Duch is one of five Khmer Rouge leaders indicted for the atrocities of Cambodia's 1970s "killing fields" regime.
The announcement came a day after it came under scathing criticism from a well-known French lawyer representing another defendant, former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan.
Jacques Verges, known for his provocative style and infamous clients, took center stage Wednesday at the tribunal, challenging its handling of the case.
The aggressive stance taken by Verges at an appeal by Khieu Samphan for release from pretrial detention augurs possible new hurdles for the tribunal, plagued over the past few years by political wrangling, corruption scandals and inadequate financing.
Conflict within the defense team surfaced Thursday when Khieu Samphan's other lawyer, Cambodian Say Bory, urged the Frenchman to tone down his approach.
"If he doesn't, it could be the end for him ... and then what would happen to the case?" Say Bory said. "I want this to move forward."
The long-delayed, U.N.-assisted tribunal seeks justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died from starvation, disease, overwork and execution as a result of the communist Khmer Rouge's radical attempt to build a classless society when it held power in 1975-79. Khieu Samphan has denied responsibility for the atrocities.
Verges has said he likes to employ what he calls a "rupture" strategy, questioning the legitimacy of the court and accusing it of being a tool of injustice.
On Wednesday he described the tribunal's case against Khieu Samphan as "invalid from the start."
The tribunal has charged Khieu Samphan with crimes against humanity and war crimes, detaining him since last November.
Wednesday's closed-door hearing on Khieu Samphan's appeal was abruptly adjourned when Verges refused to continue, protesting that the case file had not been translated into French, one of the tribunal's three officials languages along with English and Khmer.
One of the Cambodian prosecutors, Chea Leang, acknowledged to reporters that the tribunal is facing difficulty translating documents for all its cases into its three official languages.
But she said Verges' refusal to participate in the hearing was "unreasonable" because the proceedings were not part of the actual trial.
Many fear the Khmer Rouge's aging leaders could die before being brought to justice.

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