Monday, 19 January 2009
Written by Georgia Wilkins
The Phnom Penh Post
THE head of the defence section of the Khmer Rouge tribunal has thrown his support behind a criminal investigation into corruption at the court, warning that a litigious attempt by Cambodian judges to block the probe smacks of intimidation and threatens to tarnish the process.
"This could look like an attempt to intimidate defence lawyers into not providing rigorous defence or ensuring a fair trial for their client," Richard Rogers, interim chief of the defence support section, told the Post Friday.
"The only way to resolve the issue of corruption is through a full, proper and transparent investigation," he said, adding that he supports an investigation by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court into such allegations, which began after a defence team at the court made a complaint against the Extraordinary Chamber's administrators.
"It's clear the Cambodian government doesn't want to investigate [allegations], so there are few other choices left," he said.
Speaking in response to a statement on January 9 in which Cambodian judges at the internationally backed tribunal threatened the lawyers who made the civil complaint with "legal recourse", Rogers said he was concerned that such dialogue created an environment of intimidation that could impact the willingness of witnesses to come forward.
"If [witnesses] see judges publicly threatening lawyers, they might be less likely to come forward. It is important for judges to create an environment in which witnesses feel comfortable to come forward and help find the truth," he added Sunday.
Trial date still looms
On Friday, the tribunal concluded a two-day preparatory meeting for its first trial, that of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, charged for his role as head of Tuol Sleng prison.
The meeting likely set a date for the trial, expected in March, but details are not expected until later this week.
Rogers said it was to everyone's benefit, including victims of the regime, for the issue of corruption to finally be put to bed.
"Unless [the issue of corruption] is resolved, the court will forever have it hanging over its head, [and] it will remain a major criticism of the court."