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.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why So Slow 2

They say sequels are never as good as the original. Maybe so but not on this occasion. I did not plan on serializing Why So Slow: One Day in the Life of the ECCC Trial Chamber (see below) but the courtroom action of this past week has left me with no choice.


Michael Karnavas, the international counsel for Ieng Sary, stole the spotlight this week. Most lines of questioning in these proceedings are the closest thing I have seen in the courtroom to a teenage blind date – all parties involved know what they want (it all ends in an ‘out’); they just don’t know how to get there. So the girl is looking at the door and the boy … well … and awkward conversation takes place in the meantime. That conversation is the majority of the lines of questioning these proceedings have seen. As such, normally, lines of questioning consist of nothing other than sentences with question marks that go nowhere; they are many things but aren’t really probative questions. Karnavas is very often a happy exception to this regrettable state of affairs – the gentleman most of the time does have a plan (whether you agree with it or not but he does have it and there is a method to his insanity, as they say).


This past week Karnavas had a plan too. His plan was clear to a trained eye: show that the witness (who was a medical professional) was too small a fish to participate in policymaking at any level of significance or know about policymaking firsthand. The simple way of showing that would have been by asking the witness if he had participated in policy meetings at any level. The witness would have given the same answer he ended up giving Karnavas after much pushing and prodding, speeches and bench orders and that answer is no. How do I know? That’s uncomplicated – the witness had already answered that question when cross-examined by the Noun Chea defense team and before Karnavas put screws to him.


Instead of taking this obvious shortcut Karnavas took us on a botched tour of the English word ‘medic’ or the illusive Khmer word which was translated as ‘medic,’ rather. All English speakers understand that a medic is someone who peels off a Band-Aid and a doctor is someone with a set of much more sophisticated skills. Karnavas wanted the witness to have been a medic during Democratic Kampuchea but holding himself out as a doctor during that period now which would have given Karnavas a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: cast doubt on the witness’ character and show that he was one of the lowest-ranking people at the hospital which gave him no access to policy-level meetings of which he could have only known secondhand (hearsay is admissible under Cambodian criminal procedure but many of the defense counsel act as if it weren’t). This would not have changed, had the witness been a doctor during that period so long as he was not the hospital’s administrator. Karnavas came to court unprepared: he did not bring the Khmer transcript, he did not have the word used by the witness that was translated as ‘medic’ and he did not check with the translation service prior to the cross-examination. The bench (that often rigorously guards against exploration into certain areas) let Karnavas run roughshod over the translation service (perhaps, deservedly) over an issue that would predictably be of no consequence to the result of his examination. Karnavas therefore ended up burning down 30 minutes of the Court’s time on something that could have been reached with one or possibly two questions.


Now, given that everything has to be put in a frame of comparison to be fairly evaluated, was Karnavas’ line of questioning as wasteful as asking a witness whether Phnom Penh was bombed in 1975 after he specifically said that he was outside Phnom Penh at that time and did not have that information or asking a woman who was a little girl during the period in question about the demographics of Phnom Penh circa early 1970s or the Lon Nol government’s clandestine policy that encouraged corruption in the health sector? Of course not. Even a bad Karnavas still scores quite high on this Court’s bell curve but burning down a whopping half an hour of this Court’s time on a non-issue won him this week's trophy for contributing to the answer to Why So Slow. There is of course Ianuzzi's material but I can't comment on that in any comparative frame that involves Karnavas (it wouldn't be fair to Karnavas) as I have yet to hear a single line of questioning coming from the gentleman that does not remind me of the teenage blind date I described earlier (except that we all are looking at the door and I am looking at my watch thinking I could have bought a cheaper one with more entertainment on it and buttons I could be punching right now playing pinball). The bench is routinely prohibited from using profanity in court but I believe that there should be special circumstances under which this general prohibition can be lifted. In this case, I am convinced the Chamber would have wanted to take advantage of that lifting to say something along the lines of this: Jesus, F_____, ask the goddamn question!!! It would have brought liveliness to the proceedings and would have saved the Court hundreds of hours over time wasted on these 'framing paragraphs', 'comments', 'prologues' or whatever the hell these ramblings are. To extend the Principal International Civil Party Co-Lawyer's suggestion that Ianuzzi is doing it all on purpose, if he in fact is doing it with the sole purpose of riling up and rattling up the Chamber, he is awesome and I believe he belongs on Broadway as his talent is unparalleled.

I would like to apologize to Michael Karnavas for this week's award but that's only because I believe his material is general very good and that this might be my only opportunity to nitpick at his expense. Ianuzzi will have plenty of others and it looks like I will be in the market for a new trophy as this one is likely to be permanently awarded to Ianuzzi.                      


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