ECCC appoints new Chea defence lawyer

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Former top Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea during a trial hearing in Case 002 in 2012. ECCC

The Defence Support Section of the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has appointed Doreen Chen as an international co-defence lawyer for top Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, replacing Victor Koppe whose contract was terminated last month.

In November last year, the ECCC, also known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal, found 92-year-old Chea, who was second in command to Pol Pot and known as “Brother Number Two”, guilty of genocide against ethnic Vietnamese, the Cham Muslim minority and former officials in the previous Khmer Republic government. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Chen was Chea’s Senior Legal Consultant at the ECCC from 2014 to last year.

A human rights lawyer, the Australian national has an extensive range of legal practices behind her, such as representing persecuted human rights defenders and vulnerable communities in Asia, including before UN human rights mechanisms, and as lead prosecutor at the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Myanmar, a Wednesday press release states.

“She co-founded and co-directs the NGO Destination Justice, which works on rule of law, access to justice and access to information in Cambodia and beyond, and is the coordinator for international law with the Free Rohingya Coalition,” it adds.

Chen will work alongside Cambodian co-lawyer Son Arun to represent Chea before the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The Defence Support Section said they took into consideration Chea’s expressed preferences.

Chen could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

The appointment comes after Chea’s former defence lawyer Koppe was removed from the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia’s list in August last year.

The Cambodian Bar Association said Koppe’s membership of the Amsterdam Bar had expired since January 1, 2016. It said registering Koppe with the Cambodian Bar Association was therefore against the rules.

On December 14, the ECCC sent a letter to Koppe informing him of the termination of his legal services contract to represent Chea.

The head of the Defence Support Section, Isaac Endeley, told Koppe that his termination was effective as of December 11, but Koppe had until December 31 to complete the check-out procedure.