The international investigating judge at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal has named two lawyers to defend one of the suspects in a controversial case at the court, in a sign that the case is moving forward.
According to court documents obtained by VOA Khmer, the judge, Mark Harmon, named one Cambodian and one international defense attorney for Ta An, a Khmer Rouge commander who has not yet been indicted or arrested for atrocity crimes. His name is among five former commanders likely to be charged if two cases at the court proceed.
The filing, dated May 17, is an incremental step forward on Case 004, which, along with Case 003, would require a total five more indictments by a court that has come under intense financial strain in recent months, as well as ongoing criticism that political interference from top Cambodian officials is slowing its progress.
In the filing, Harmon names Cambodian lawyer Mam Luch and Dutch lawyer Goran Sluiter as defendants for Ta An, who court prosecutors accuse of atrocity crimes as deputy secretary of the Central Zone—where an estimated 150,000 people died, including many Cham minorities.
Four more suspects have yet to have defense attorneys put forward to the court.
That could be problematic, said Long Panhavuth,a tribunal monitor at the Cambodia Justice Initiative. Without attorneys, the potential suspects may not have the time they need to create a fair defense, he said. It also means they won’t have time to take part in any ensuing investigation, should it come to that, he said.
Latt Ky, a court monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said the new filing shows that the UN side of the hybrid court is still working at moving the two cases forward. “But the national side seems to be ignoring the cases,” he added.
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said confirmation on other attorneys is still in a discussion stage within the Office of Co-Investigating Judges.