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Former Khmer Rouge minister makes first appearance before Cambodian tribunal

[JURIST] Former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] minister for social affairs Ieng Thirith [JURIST news archive] made her first appearance in court Tuesday at a bail hearing before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive]. Thirith was arrested [JURIST report] in November 2007 along with her husband, former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary [JURIST news archive]. The couple were subsequently charged [JURIST report] with crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the Khmer Rouge regime. Prosecutors allege that Thirith planned and directed widespread purges and killings within the Khmer Rouge Ministry of Social Affairs. Her husband, Sary, has been facing health problems during his detention. In February, he returned to court [JURIST report] after hospitalization for a urinary tract problem. Both Thirith and Sary have maintained their innocence. BBC News has more.

The ECCC was established by law [text as amended 2004, PDF] in 2001 to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials. The Khmer Rouge is generally believed responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] between 1975 and 1979. No top Khmer Rouge officials have yet faced trial. In August 2007, the ECCC brought its first charges against Kaing Khek Iev [TrialWatch profile; JURIST report], better known as "Duch", who was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. Former Khmer Rouge official Nuon Chea [GenocideWatch report] is awaiting trial [JURIST report] for charges [statement, PDF] of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Charges have also been brought against former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, who was arrested [JURIST report] in November 2007. In February, Samphan ended his cooperation [JURIST report] with the ECCC.

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