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Tribunal Defense Teams Wary of Joint Criminal Enterprise

A defense lawyer for one of the senior Khmer Rouge leaders preparing for trial says he does not want a trial under the principle of Joint Criminal Enterprise, which would seek to link four leaders now in detention in atrocity crimes under the regime.

“My client was only the minister of social affairs,” said Phat Povseang, who represents Ieng Thirith, the wife of foreign minister Ieng Sary, at the tribunal. Ieng Thirith did not have power or authority under the structure of the regime, he said.

Tribunal officials are now preparing for upcoming Case 002, which will try Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith for atrocity crimes, including genocide.

In their final submission for Case 002, tribunal prosecutors said the four should be tried under JCE, a complex legal theory that trial judges will have to consider.

Phat Povseang said JCE would put Ieng Thirith in the same category of other leaders, even if she had not shared the same responsibilities.

“Simply speaking, just as when we eat noodles at a restaurant, my client just ate a bowl of noodles,” he said. “The others ate bowls of noodles, ate dumplings, and drank coffee. How can they pay the same?”

Defense teams for the other leaders have not issued official comments on the prosecution's JCE submission. Defense lawyers say they are now reviewing the final submission, but earlier this year defense teams failed to block a decision to consider JCE for Case 002.

JCE considers members of an organized groups and makes them individually responsible for crimes committed or planned by the group.

Son Arun, a defense lawyer for Nuon Chea, told VOA Khmer he disagreed with the use of JCE because of its complicated legal nature.

JCE will also likely mean testimony from Khmer Rogue subordinates, he said, which could put the Cambodian prosecution's objections to further indictments in question.

“The use of JCE at trial will be disorderly, because while there is a trial, [defendants] will be blaming each other,” he said. “If if that happens, who knows, maybe there will need to be renewed investigations. Because JCE needs testimony from the top to the bottom.”