Samphan’s Lawyers Are Now ‘Court-Appointed’

In a last-ditch effort to force Khieu Samphan’s lawyers to come to court and participate in their client’s genocide trial, judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal issued a ruling Friday reclassifying them as “court-appointed counsel.”

The lawyers have been boycotting the trial since it began in mid-October, saying that Khieu Samphan had instructed them to focus on preparing his appeal in an earlier phase of his trial. 

Judges have appeared increasingly frustrated by this tactic and this week told the lawyers—Anta Guisse, Arthur Vercken, and Kong Sam Onn—that they must stop their boycott by 4:30 p.m. on November 18, an ultimatum the defense team ignored.

Friday’s decision said that in an effort to prevent the lawyers from “rely[ing] on instructions from Khieu Samphan to further ob­struct the proceedings,” judges would reclassify them as court-appointed lawyers.

“The Chamber considers that maintaining the present counsel, but preventing them, as Court Appointed Counsel, from adhering to the Accused’s instructions not to attend the proceedings is the least intrusive restriction of the Accused’s right to choose counsel that is available,” the judges wrote.

The Trial Chamber said it would be forced to take further action if the lawyers did not show up on Monday morning for the start of evidence-hearing in the case. This could include appointing new lawyers to replace the current team.

The defense lawyers could not be reached for comment, but Ms. Guisse said earlier this week that they would not stop their boycott even if the judges reclassified them.

The Khieu Samphan team has long argued that it is wrong for the court to begin hearing evidence in the second phase of their client’s trial until an appeal judgment is issued in the first phase. According to a projection released by the court, this is not expected to happen until the first quarter of 2016.

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