Prosecutors at UN-backed court want conditions placed on Khmer Rouge leader’s release
Prosecutors at the United Nations-backed Cambodia genocide court today appealed the decision to unconditionally release Ieng Thirith, a former senior member of the Khmer Rouge who was found unfit to stand trial, stating that certain restrictions should be placed on her freedom.
The trial chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), which held that Ieng Thirith is unfit to stand trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the Khmer Rouge regime, issued a decision on Thursday to release her unconditionally.
Expert psychiatrists who examined Ms. Thirith last year diagnosed her with clinical dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s, which would hinder her participation in court hearings.
“The Co-Prosecutors fully agree with the Trial Chamber that Ieng Thirith should be released from detention based on the findings of national and international experts that she is currently unfit to stand trial,” stated a news release from the court. “However, the Co-Prosecutors are of the view that her release should not have been unconditional.”
The Co-Prosecutors took note of the chamber’s holding that “there exists a possibility (albeit remote) of a change in the circumstances, and a resumption of the trial at a later point in time.”
Taking this into account, the Co-Prosecutors consider that the trial chamber has the legal authority to consider and apply “limited, reasonably necessary and proportionate” restrictions on Ms. Thirith’s liberty, the news release added.
The purpose of these restrictions or conditions would be to ensure that the accused does not flee the jurisdiction of the court, to ensue that she does not interfere with witnesses or other accused giving evidence at trial, to ensure her safety and public order, and to ensure that her health is adequately monitored to enable the trial chamber to remain informed of her medical condition.
Ms. Thirith, who formerly served as Social Affairs Minister for the Democratic Kampuchea – as Cambodia was known during the Khmer Rouge regime’s leadership of the country – was on trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity along with her husband and former foreign minister Ieng Sary, former so-called Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, and former head of State Khieu Samphan, all leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime during the late 1970s.
The ECCC is an independent court set up under an agreement signed in 2003 by the UN and the Government, and uses a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel.