Ieng Sary: from angel of death to 'agent of peace'
By Dan Poynton
The Mekong Times
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Former Khmer Rouge (KR) Foreign Minister Ieng Sary was yesterday described by his defense team as "an agent of peace," on the third day of his appeal hearing against provisional detention at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT).
It is doubtful whether the majority of Cambodians - not least the approximately 1.7 million who died here during the Khmer Rouge era would agree with this description of "BrotherNo.3," now on trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
"[At the time] Prime Minister Hun Sen said if [Ieng Sary had not surrendered] we could not have ended the war. If we attempt to prosecute Ieng Sary again it could again lead to war," said Ieng Sary's co-defense lawyer, Michael Karnavas, yesterday at the hearing, referring to Ieng Sary's 1996 surrender -with thousands of KR troops loyal to him – in return for a royal pardon repealing his death sentence handed down by the hastily convened Vietnamese-backed People's Revolutionary Tribunal in 1979.
Ieng Sary has "contributed to the stability, harmony and peace of this country," Karnavas reported Hun Sen as previously saying, adding that only months after Ieng Sary's surrender, 70 to 80 percent of all remaining KR troops followed suit and defected to the government.
Yesterday's hearing revolved around the argument of whether the KRT is an international or national court - an issue that almost everyone agrees should have been resolved years ago when the KRT was being formed with UN support. But both sides believe it is crucial for the validity of Ieng Sary's pardon, as if the pardon is valid, the defense claims he should be released immediately without conditions.
The prosecution claimed the KRT is "internationalized," and therefore, because of the extreme gravity of Ieng Sary's alleged crimes, any amnesty or pardon granted to him is not permissible, in accordance with international law.
Co-Prosecutor Yet Chakriya pointed out that the pardon was given to Ieng Sary by putting the law aside in desperate times of civil war; the forming of the KRT was made in peaceful times and so the government agreed to uphold principles of international law. "The government ... has a strong wish to get rid of any impunity," he said.
Australian Co-Prosecutor William Smith claimed that documents "clearly show that the pardon was not meant to cover the crimes committed from 1975-79 [the Democratic Kampuchea era, and the period of the KRT's mandate]," and did not preclude further prosecution by other courts.
Ieng Sary's defense claimed that the KRT is a national court - albeit with international assistance and participation - which was always designed to protect the "sovereignty of Cambodia," and that when the amnesty and pardon were given, "clearly Cambodians were in full control of their destiny," as the pardon was initiated by then Co-Prime Ministers Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh, approved by the National Assembly and finally granted by then King Norodom Sihanouk, as the King is empowered to do under the Constitution.
Throughout the ongoing hearing, the defense has made no attempt to deny Ieng Sary's alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, which is of course the real issue for the millions of Cambodians who suffered under the Khmer Rouge. No one can deny the importance of correct jurisprudent practice, but many Cambodian people wonder if they will ever find out the truth they deserve to know about the darkest hour of their history. KRT spokesman Reach Sambath said the hearing is expected to finish today.
Extracted from the Mekong Times
Issue No. 103
Thursday, July 3, 2008