Historian Accuses Tribunal Lawyers of ‘Cold Torture’

French historian Henri Locard on Tuesday accused defense lawyers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal of subjecting him to “cold torture” during his time on the stand, and later branded their behavior as “criminal.”

Testifying for a final day, Mr. Locard lambasted Anta Guisse, a lawyer for Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan—who is on trial alongside the regime’s second-in-command, Nuon Chea—for her efforts to discredit his expertise on Monday.

Henri Locard testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (ECCC)
Henri Locard testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (ECCC)

“I didn’t sleep very well this night, so it might be difficult for me to answer you because yesterday you practiced cold torture on me and now I know what cold torture means. I wasn’t able to sleep between 1 and 4 in the morning,” Mr. Locard said.

The 77-year-old historian then appeared to compare his treatment at the tribunal to that of Cambodians who returned from abroad during the Pol Pot era.

“When people would return from abroad, the idea was to gift one’s persona to Angkar. So, if you want to continue with cold torture, after three days maybe I will gift my persona to Angkar as well,” he said.

Ms. Guisse replied that she was simply doing her job.

“Mr. Locard, I am only putting questions to you in the way I put questions to all witnesses—by pointing to contradictions when I find them and therefore asking clarification,” she said. “In no case am I torturing you.”

Mr. Locard, the author of “Pol Pot’s Little Red Book,” an analysis of Khmer Rouge slogans, concluded his testimony by saying that he had never found slogans that referenced Cambodia’s Cham Muslims, an ethnic minority against whom the two defendants are accused of perpetrating genocide against.

“In fact, nowhere in the country did I ever hear any slogans uttered that targeted specifically the Cham. Similarly, I did not hear any slogans targeting the Chinese, who have been forgotten in this trial entirely,” he said.

Contacted later, Mr. Locard went further in his criticism of both Ms. Guisse and Victor Koppe, a lawyer for Nuon Chea—calling them “criminal” and “perverse.”

“These people are criminal because they are making the tribunal waste hours and weeks, days and months,” he said.

“It [the tribunal] should have been no more than three years, because of these completely perverse people who are what we call deniers, negationists—they deny reality.”

The historian also accused the lawyers of “ridiculing” Cambodian witnesses and civil parties.

“I was expecting it and I know how to defend myself. But I think of the poor Khmers who have not got as high education and my ability to debate and who are completely upset and thrown off balance,” he said.

Ms. Guisse rejected Mr. Locard’s claims.

“It’s very unfortunate that a professor of this level of education can throw accusations which are bordering insults, disrespecting in the process all the Prosecutors, civil party lawyers, and judges who saw nothing wrong or unusual in the way the Defence have put questions,” the French lawyer said in an email.

“What he said about ‘poor Cambodians’ is a very paternalistic way of talking about the hundreds [of] men and women who have testified so far. At least they did not seem to have any ego problem when answering questions.”

Mr. Koppe declined to comment.

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