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Khmer Rouge trial branded a farce as leaders testify

Government accused of exerting "pervasive control": guilty verdicts by no means certain

<p>Picture: Christian Science Monitor</p>

Picture: Christian Science Monitor

  • Mike Ekkel for Christian Science Monitor
  • Cambodia
  • October 31, 2013
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By most accounts, defense lawyer Victor Koppe isn't known for mincing words. So when he delivered an excoriating indictment of the court known informally as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, there were more yawns than gasps from the judges, lawyers and spectators gathered in the courtroom on the outskirts of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.

“Procedural irregularities during the judicial investigation and this trial have been so persistent and troubling that we have hardly had time to object to them all,” Mr. Koppe said last week, according to transcribed remarks. “So too are the effects of the government’s pervasive control over these proceedings.”

"No one in this court is interested in ascertaining the truth,” he charged.

Few doubt that the man Koppe is defending, Nuon Chea, was at the top of Khmer Rouge, the radical Marxist guerrilla group whose ideology resulted in the deaths of as much as one-fifth of Cambodia’s population in the 1970s. Many more doubt the integrity of the judicial process that has sought to hold Nuon Chea and his co-defendant, Khieu Samphan, accountable for those atrocities.

With their trial nearing conclusion, and future trials increasingly doubtful, the tribunal is leaving a tarnished legacy, as legal experts vow never to repeat a similar structure and Cambodians wonder about why so much money has been spent on a flawed process.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are scheduled to take the stand Thursday to testify as part of closing arguments in the two men’s trial on charges of crimes against humanity. With a verdict expected early next year, legal experts and historians are looking hard at what exactly the court has accomplished.  

“It wasn’t Nuremberg, but it wasn’t Stalin’s show trials either,” says Peter Maguire, a US historian and frequent critic of the court. “Good intentions don’t necessarily yield good outcomes.”

Full Story: Khmer Rouge trial nears end, with tarnished legacy 

Source: Christian Science Monitor

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