The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, started a four-day appellate hearing for case 002/02 of former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, the last living Khmer Rouge leader to stand trial.
The hearing is scheduled to continue until August 19, with the first day taken up by both the defence and prosecution presenting their arguments.
Samphan was found guilty by the Trial Chamber and sentenced to life imprisonment on November 16, 2018, for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide against ethnic Vietnamese.
The Trial Chamber determined that Samphan was responsible for oversight of orders and planning related to the crimes and for acts of incitement, conspiracy and facilitation that made these crimes – which largely occurred between January 17, 1975, and January 6, 1979, at diverse locales throughout the country – possible in the first place.
At the start of the hearing, Samphan’s defence lawyer requested that the Supreme Court Chamber overturn the life sentence on technical grounds, arguing that the Trial Chamber did not follow required procedures.
Kong Sam Onn, co-defence counsel for Samphan, said in the hearing that the Trial Chamber had issued a ruling which violated the procedures set forth in the ECCC, rendering their subsequent activities – including the imposition of a life sentence – unlawful.
“The verdict sentencing Khieu Samphan has no legal effect and should be annulled. Therefore, we request that the Supreme Court Chamber reject the verdict of case 002/02 issued on November 16, 2018, and declare it null and void,” he said.
Sam Onn said the Trial Chamber did not issue a written Closing Order or document to explain the court’s reasoning behind the sentence it chose, although doing so was required by the ECCC’s internal rules. It only issued the documents nearly six months later.
“We filed the appeal just three days after the Trial Chamber’s verdict was issued; we argued that the verdict was delivered unlawfully,” he said, adding that prison term for a man of Samphan’s advanced age and infirmity was incredibly harsh and unjust.
He argued that his client had not learned of the closing order for several months and had been unable to file an appeal previously, and therefore his rights were violated.
Rebutting the defence’s arguments, co-prosecutor Chea Leang said the verdict of the Trial Chamber was in line with the laws and facts.
“Defendant Khieu Samphan has failed to prove that the Trial Chamber was not impartial. He cannot prove that the Trial Chamber violated his right to a fair trial,” she said, adding that the Trial Chamber had sentenced Samphan for crimes of such infamy that the entire world was well-acquainted with the brutal details and the overwhelming evidence of his guilt.
She said Samphan failed to prove beyond doubt that he had not known about the crimes he was judged to bear responsibility for or even mitigate his guilt by proving that anyone else in the regime was more to blame for these atrocities than he himself was.
“There is a huge pile of evidence supporting the sentence against him. That evidence produced just one story, with just one ending. The only possible conclusion is that he is guilty of these crimes,” she said.
The hearing is scheduled to resume on August 17 at 9am.