Khieu Samphan Defense Mocks Court, ‘Arrogant’ Prosecution

Khieu Samphan’s defense team went on the attack against the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday, accusing the Trial Chamber of showing little interest in ensuring a fair trial and proclaiming that it had already accomplished its mission in securing a life sentence for the regime’s head of state.

“Mr. Khieu Samphan is going to die in jail,” international defense lawyer Anta Guisse said as she began her closing statement in the two-and-a-half-year trial.

Khieu Samphan during a court hearing at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal this week. (ECCC)

“He’s going to die in jail and he knows that. His defense knows that as well. You know it as well,” the French lawyer declared in the statement aimed at the judges.

“Mission accomplished. You sentenced him to life and that was the objective of this historic trial—sentencing Mr. Khieu Samphan to life.”

Both Khieu Samphan, 85, and the Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, 90, are nearing the end of their second trial for widespread crimes against humanity, including genocide.

Last year, they lost their appeals to the life sentences handed down in a first trial for crimes heavily focused on the evacuation of Phnom Penh after the ultra-communists took power in April 1975.

The first sentence had quenched the thirst for a guilty verdict from the prosecution, victims known as civil parties and donors, Ms. Guisse said, scornfully pointing out the judges’ “second mission” was to deliver another guilty verdict in the second trial.

“I do not doubt, Mr. President, that between now and a few months from today, when a new verdict will be issued, there will be new accolades in the corridors of this tribunal to congratulate ourselves,” she said.

“There will have been a Holy Grail of a new life sentence. We will congratulate ourselves like in Case 002/01 of this victory in the struggle against impunity.”

Ms. Guisse also said the trial was biased and questioned whether it was worthy of being a model for Cambodia and the world.

She accused the court of having little interest in basic principles of law or defending the right to a fair trial, adding that an “incredible situation” had arisen where in-depth discussions of law were considered “almost odd” in the courtroom.

“Why are we being bothered again with these technical questions? That’s what you may ask,” Ms. Guisse said.

She added, in a mocking tone, “And after all, these Khmer Rouge have a bit of nerve, don’t you think? Were there any fair trials under [Democratic Kampuchea]? They should already be happy to have lawyers represent them?”

The prosecution had become “arrogant,” due to its belief that the burden of proof had been reversed, Ms. Guisse claimed.

The prosecutors “have the certainty that no matter what they do…their case is necessarily going to prevail,” she said, claiming that their closing statements were as if “the proceedings that took place before this courtroom never took place.”

Ms. Guisse cited examples of events—including the treatment of the Khmer Krom and incursions into Vietnamese territory by Khmer Rouge troops—presented by the prosecution and civil parties that fell outside the scope of the charges against Khieu Samphan.

It “might be shocking for some of you, but Khieu Samphan is not being tried for everything that happened in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979,” she said.

The closing statement by Khieu Samphan’s defense team concludes today.

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