Cambodia's Khmer Rouge war crimes court suffered a new setback yesterday with the resignation of three international lawyers who have complained of political interference.
It is the latest in a string of departures from the UN-backed tribunal, which has long been dogged by allegations of government meddling and has completed just one case.
International lawyer Andrew Ianuzzi told AFP that three members of the defence team for "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea would quit at the end of the year.
"I'm leaving because I no longer wish to be a part of the (tribunal) and I don't think there's anything further I can do to meaningfully assist Nuon Chea," Ianuzzi said.
The three lawyers have previously said government interference had tainted the proceedings and their client would not receive a fair trial.
"The outcome will be exactly what the government wants. If (Prime Minister) Hun Sen says my client is a genocidal killer, Cambodian judges know what to do," Dutchman Michiel Pestman, who is also stepping down along with co-lawyer Jasper Pauw, told AFP in June.
Two international judges have also quit the court since October 2011 amid a row over whether to pursue more former regime members.
Nuon Chea and his co-accused, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and former head of state Khieu Samphan, deny charges including crimes against humanity and genocide for the deaths of up to two million people in the late 1970s.
Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of the population through starvation, overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.
The departure of the long-serving lawyers is "a definite loss" for Nuon Chea's defence, said tribunal monitor Clair Duffy of the Open Society Justice Initiative.
"The trial chamber will have to ensure that such a significant part of his team leaving doesn't adversely impact Nuon Chea's right to effective representation," she said.
Another international co-lawyer, Dutchman Victor Koppe, will continue to represent Nuon Chea along with a Cambodian lawyer.
The court has so far achieved just one conviction, sentencing former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.