The U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia has begun considering the scope and timing of a second phase of trial for two aging regime leaders.
Lawyers for former head of state Khieu Samphan Tuesday said the court should wait until it delivers a verdict in the first phase of the trial. They add that a hasty trial could jeopardize the rights of the defendants.
But the international prosecutor for the tribunal, William Smith, told the court Tuesday that donors “continue to pay more each month,” while “victims have been waiting 30 years for justice.” He said the second phase of the trial should start as possible.
Victor Koppe, a lawyer for the regime’s chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, agreed with prosecutors.
“We do not support the request to wait for case 002/02 until the appeal judgment in case 002/01 because it is not what our client wants," he said. "Our client is very anxious to begin the trial in case 002/02 to have an opportunity to tell his story without artificial constraints on the scope of the evidence. So accordingly we believe the case 002/02 trial can and should begin as soon as possible.”
The tribunal, which began in 2006, is facing mounting pressure to wrap up the case.
Pich Ang, a civil lawyer for victims of the Khmer Rouge, says his clients are tired of waiting for justice. He said, “This [delay] will seriously affect the court procedure. It will increase the risk of receiving a verdict for case 002/02.”
As many as 2 million Cambodians died from starvation, overwork and executions during the four-year rule of the Khmer Rouge, which attempted to create an agrarian communist utopia.
The group's leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 and co-founder Ieng Sary died earlier this year.
Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch," was sentenced last year to life in prison for his role in killing more than 14,000 while running the Tuol Sleng torture and execution center in Phnom Penh.
(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.)