PHNOM PENH - At least three members of the defense team for jailed Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea have quit, citing a “lack of fairness” at the UN-backed court.
The departing team included lawyers Michiel Pestman, Andrew Iannuzi and Jasper Pauw, who left Cambodia Wednesday night.
Iannuzi told VOA Khmer by phone from the airport there was “nothing more we could do at the court to help our client, so we decided to leave.”
Nuon Chea, a leading ideologue for the Khmer Rouge, is on trial alongside Khieu Samphan, the regime’s nominal head of state, and Ieng Sary, its foreign minister, for atrocity crimes, including genocide, committed by cadre under their command, in the tribunal’s second case since its inception in 2006.
The tribunal has been dogged since the beginning with allegations of mismanagement and corruption, and it has seen walkouts of international staff from inside the office of investigating judges. The departure of most of the international defense team for one of the most notorious of its suspects, however, is the first of its kind.
The defense team has in the past called into question political interference at the court and the refusal of senior officials to answer summonses, and earlier this month one of the defense lawyers was expelled from the courtroom, after he demanded that deforestation of the 1980s be discussed at trial.
Illegal logging is a sensitive subject in Cambodia, where top leaders have been implicated for decades in the export of luxury timber and other forestry products, often illicitly, usually lucratively. Journalists have been killed for digging into illegal logging, and the environmental watchdog Global Witness was kicked out of the country for its research into the practice.
“We don’t believe that the Trial Chamber, we don’t believe that the process, will be a legitimate one,” Iannuzi said Wednesday.
A tribunal spokesman said that one international lawyer, Victor Kobe, remains.
Son Arun, Nuon Chea’s Cambodian defense attorney, told VOA Khmer there is “nothing to wonder or to worry about.”