As the pre-trial detention hearing of jailed Khmer Rouge
leader Ieng Sary came to a close this week, participants found themselves at
odds over how much victim participation through civil parties was too much.
Prior to one session of the hearings, the Pre-Trial Chamber
judges ruled that one individual, Seng Theary, a Cambodian-American lawyer
whose parents died under the Khmer Rouge, would not be allowed to participate
directly. Pre-trial judges ruled that for the Ieng Sary hearings, civil party
victims of the regime would only be allowed to express themselves through
That ruling has raised questions over how much participation
should be allowed in the future.
The UN-Cambodia tribunal was designed with a unique element:
the presence of civil parties, who participate alongside prosecutors and the
defense, representing their own cases but also speaking as a voice of the
victims. But following the hearings Thursday, lawyers told reporters there was
"In some ways, it was really a bad week from the
perspective of the civil parties," said lawyer for the civil parties Silke
Studzinsky. "We received this week a ruling by the Pre-Trial Chamber saying
that civil parties are not allowed to speak personally if they are not
Under the tribunal's internal rules, civil parties are not
obligated to have a lawyer, Studzinsky said.
Seng Theary called the ruling "a prevention of the civil
Michael Karnavas, co-defense for Ieng Sary, disagreed.
"We still have not set up the modality, how far can [civil
parties] go, what should they do?" he said Thursday. "Half the time
they are just repeating the arguments that the prosecutors made, rather than
say, 'I concur,' and then adding one or two points."
However, Studzinsky said Karnavas was used
to working with courts in a system of common law, unlike the system used to
set-up the tribunal.
William Smith, co-deputy prosecutor, called civil parties very important for the tribunal. They play a watchdog role, he said, and stand
up for the interest of all victims.
Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the role of the civil
parties was important to the courts, but in some cases, testimony such as Seng
Theary's is not crucial.
"Seng Theary's case is not the same," he said.
"The expression of the victims in person will be more interesting in the