Saturday, 2 February 2008

Cambodia bars Dutch lawyer from addressing genocide tribunal hearing

The Associated Press
February 1, 2008

A Dutch lawyer for a detained former Khmer Rouge leader will not be allowed to address a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal hearing next week because Cambodia's bar association refused to swear him in, officials said Friday.

The lawyer's association took the action against Victor Koppe, who represents former Khmer Rouge ideologist Nuon Chea, because he breached its rules by acting as his defense counsel before being formally sworn in.

Koppe violated the rules when earlier this week he petitioned the court for the removal of Judge Ney Thol, who sits on the tribunal's pre-trial chamber.

Nuon Chea is scheduled to appear Monday at a hearing on his appeal against his provisional detention by the tribunal, which has charged him with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The charges are related to his alleged role in the Khmer Rouge atrocities that led to the deaths
of some 1.7 million people when the communist movement held power in Cambodia in 1975-79.

Peter Foster, a tribunal spokesman, said the hearing will proceed as planned on Monday, although Sun Arun, another lawyer representing Nuon Chea, said he has already applied for a postponement.

It was unclear whether Koppe would be allowed to represent Nuon Chea at some future point, with the bar association saying it was still considering the matter.

The tribunal has been delayed by many snags, both procedural and political, since Cambodia in 1997 first sought U.N. help to establish it. In 2006 it opened its offices and appointed staff, and only last year did it finally take five former Khmer Rouge leaders into custody pending trial.

In his petition, Koppe had claimed Ney Thol "is neither independent nor impartial" and his judicial record and political background threatened "to undermine the credibility and integrity" of the tribunal.

Ney Thol is a member of the central committee of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party as well as president of the military court.

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