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Arguments Open as Tribunal Considers Next Phase of Khmer Rouge Trial

In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, left, former Khmer Rouge head of state, and Nuon Chea, right, who was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, sit in the court hall before they made closing statements at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, file photo.
Lawyers and prosecutors gave arguments before the Trial Chamber of the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday, as the court begins to consider the scope and timing of a second phase of trial for two aging regime leaders.

Prosecutors want the next phase to begin as soon as possible, though lawyers for the former head of state, Khieu Samphan, have said the court should wait until it delivers a verdict in the first phase of the trial.

Lawyers for the regime’s chief ideologue, Nuon Chea, agreed with prosecutors, however. “We believe that case 02/02 can and should begin as soon as possible,” lawyer Victor Koppe said, referring to the second phase of Case 002.

The tribunal is facing mounting pressure to wrap up the case, as international funding for the court, which began in 2006, dwindles.

William Smith, the international prosecutor for the tribunal, told the Trial Chamber that donors “continue to pay more each month,” while “victims have been waiting 30 years for justice.” The next phase of the trial should start as possible, he said.

A delay while the court goes through the verdict and appeals process for the first phase of Case 002 could take up to two years, he said.

Pich Ang, a lawyer for civil parties, supported those arguments. Victims who have filed with the court do not want to wait long for the second phase of the trial, he said.

Lawyers for Khieu Samphan, however, disagreed, saying a hasty trial could jeopardize the rights of the defendants.