ECCC Reparations

This blog is designed to serve as a repository of analyses, news reports and press releases related to the issue of RERAPATIONS within the framework of the Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a.k.a. the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dutch lawyer debarred after challenging authorities

Controversy at the Cambodia tribunal
Dutch lawyer debarred after challenging authorities
By our correspondent Michel Maas*
It had all the hallmarks of a bad omen. The tuk-tuk driver couldn't find Phnom Penh's Royal Palace. It's like a Paris cabbie telling you he doesn't know where the Eiffel Tower is.
Dutch lawyer Victor Koppe was almost late for the session at the appeals court, across from the palace, where he was to be sworn in as a member of the Cambodian bar. An unlikely coincidence, he thought, could this be a conspiracy?
Victor Koppe
Earlier this week Mr Koppe ruffled feathers by demanding the resignation of one of the Cambodian judges of the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, due to start its work on Monday.
The judge in question, Ney Thol, is a prominent member of the ruling Communist party and an army general, and presided over Cambodia's military tribunal - not someone to be easily removed. On Monday, the court is to begin hearing Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's most senior surviving leader, accused of being responsible for the murder of 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.
Of the five top leaders the tribunal is to try, he is the highest-ranking. Also known as "Brother Number Two", Nuon Chea was second-in-command to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who died in 1997.


It didn't take long before the Dutch lawyer was confronted with the consequences of challenging Cambodia's authorities. On Friday, Cambodia's bar refused to swear him in. By signing a petition requesting the judge's removal before being sworn in, the Dutch lawyer overstepped his bounds and was debarred as a punishment.
Ly Tai Seng, the bar's secretary-general, was quick to deny that his dismissal was a reprisal by the Cambodian government. Unasked, he emphasised there had been "no political pressure".
Tribunal in perilThe bar's ruling threatens to jeopardise the tribunal's procedures. Mr Koppe warned that if the court barred him from defending Mr Chea, no other lawyers would attend the hearing either. And without lawyers, he explained, there can be no hearing.
Brother Number Two Nuon CheaIf the tribunal were to press ahead anyway, that would be "the end of the tribunal's legitimacy". Helen Jarvis, a spokeswoman for the tribunal, however, announced the hearing would go ahead as planned.
Dented imageThe row has tarnished the image of the tribunal, which is to begin its hearings after ten years of wrangling between Cambodia and the international community. The request to remove Judge Thol because of his ties with the army and the Communist party has raised doubts about the tribunal's qualifications.
The tribunal falls under Cambodian law and most of its judges are Cambodian. The bar's ruling, concludes Mr Koppe, shows that both Cambodia's judges and lawyers do the government's bidding. Postponing Monday's hearing would only further undermine the tribunal's credibility.
* RNW Translation (cl)


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