Khmer Rouge defendant challenges genocide tribunal

Ieng Sary had received a royal pardon from Cambodia`s King when he led a mass defection to govt.

Phnom Penh: One of the four former Khmer Rouge leaders charged with genocide and other crimes challenged the right of Cambodia`s UN-backed tribunal to try him on Tuesday.

Ang Udom, the lawyer for former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, objected that his client had received a royal pardon from Cambodia`s King when he led a mass defection to the government.

He alleged that Ieng Sary was also at risk of being tried twice for the same crime because a Vietnamese-backed tribunal in 1979 had convicted him of genocide.

If Ieng Sary still commanded Khmer Rouge fighters, the guerrilla war the group waged after being ousted from power would still be going on today, at a cost of many people`s lives and destruction, Ang Udom asserted.

The arguments, made on the second day of trial sessions covering legal procedures, are unlikely to succeed, since the tribunal rejected them in a pre-trial hearing earlier this year. The tribunal ruled then that the pardon covered only a 1994 anti-Khmer Rouge law, and effectively nullified the 1979 conviction.

The court will begin hearing testimony from witnesses in August or September.

On Monday, the tribunal began trying these architects of Cambodia`s "Killing Fields" who were part of the late Pol Pot`s ruling regime in 1975-79. All are now old and infirm: Nuon Chea, 84, Pol Pot`s No 2 and the group`s chief ideologist; Khieu Samphan, 79, its former head of state; Ieng Sary, 85; and his wife Ieng Thirith, 79, who was minister for social affairs. Pol Pot escaped justice with his death in 1998.

The charges against them include crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, homicide and torture and religious persecution.

Prosecutors challenged the arguments of Ieng Sary`s lawyers.

"I urge your honours to reject this in order to protect the interests of and provide justice to the victims and to those who died during the Khmer Rouge regime," Chan Dara Reasmei, the Cambodian deputy co-prosecutor, told the court, saying the amnesty did not cover the charges against him.

International deputy co-prosecutor William Smith of Australia told the court it had "an independent and fundamental obligation under international law to not allow an amnesty to protect Ieng Sary from facing this trial for genocide and other crimes”.

Bureau Report