Phnom Penh - Lawyers for a former Khmer Rouge leader said Thursday that confidential documents were stolen from their office at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal and left in a moat outside the court's detention facility.
Michael Pestman, international co-lawyer for Khmer Rouge chief ideologue Noun Chea, said he found the documents after a visit to his client in the detention facility Wednesday.
"We saw documents floating in the moat, and after I fished them out, they turned out to be a draft letter from our office, which should have been shredded," he said. "This is a serious breech of security, and this document was most probably stolen from our office."
Pestman said the document was a draft of letter sent to Helen Jarvis, head of the tribunal's victims unit, which related to an open letter she signed in 2006 when she was a member of an Australian socialist political party.
Nuon Chea's lawyers earlier this week criticized Jarvis, an Australian citizen who was formerly the court's public affairs chief, over the letter, in which she and more than 50 other members of the Leninist Party Faction of the Democratic Socialist Party declared their position on an ideological dispute.
"We too are Marxists and believe that 'the end justifies the means,'" the declaration said. "In time of revolution and civil war, the most extreme measures will sometimes become necessary and justified. Against the bourgeoisie and their state agencies, we don't respect their laws and their fake moral principles."
Pestman said the position expressed in the declaration led him to have "serious concerns" over Jarvis' suitability for the role as head of the victims unit and as an ethics monitor in the trial of five former leaders of Cambodia's 1975-1979 Maoist regime.
"We are not saying that she does not have the right to hold personal political views, but we are concerned that she signed a letter stating that she does not have to follow the rule of law," he said. "We are concerned that this could affect our client's right to a fair trial."
Jarvis has remained silent on the issue and has not replied to the lawyers' letter.
Pestman refused to speculate on who had taken the draft letter from his legal team's office.
He said a security official at the court had launched an investigation into the incident.
Five former Khmer Rouge leaders are facing trial at the court for their roles in the deaths of up to 2 million people through execution, starvation or overwork during the group's rule.
The trial of Kaing Guek Eav, former warden of the Tuol Sleng torture prison in Phnom Penh, began in February.
None of the other four detainees have been indicted yet.
The tribunal was established in 2006 after a decade of negotiations between the Cambodian Government and the United Nations. For the past year, it has been dogged by allegations of government interference in the trials and corruption on the Cambodian side of the court.
Nuon Chea's lawyers also this week sent letters to the court's chief prosecutors and co-investigating judges claiming to have evidence of government interference.
A letter to prosecutor Chea Leang accused her of breaching the court's rules by acting on the government's instructions to not extend the court's investigation to more former Khmer Rouge members.
Chea Leang's decision not to extend the investigation led to a disagreement with her international co-prosecutor, which was made public in February.
"We are reliably informed that you have received instructions from the [government] not to pursue the prosecutions that form the basis of the current disagreement," the defence team's letter said.
In a letter to You Bunleng, co-investigating judge, Nuon Chea's lawyers asked: "Have you received any member or official of the Royal Government of Cambodia with respect to our teams seventh and/or 10th request for investigative action?"
The former leaders' lawyers have accused the country's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of stifling attempts to extend the tribunal's investigation out of fear that high-ranking government officials could face prosecution.
Many CPP politicians, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, are former Khmer Rouge cadres.(dpa)