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Prosecutors appeal decision to release Khmer Rouge leader

Prosecutors in the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] filed an immediate appeal [text, PDF] on Friday of the court's decision to release [JURIST report] Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Thirith [ECCC profile, PDF] after finding her unfit to stand trial. The judges found, based on the opinions of a geriatrician and four psychiatrists [JURIST report], that Ieng's incapacity to remember her own husband's name, let alone her alleged contribution to the death of up to two million people, would not serve the interests of justice. The prosecutors argue that the decision to release Ieng should be delayed for six months and she should be held in detention during that time and undergo medical treatment for her condition. The prosecutors also argue that the court had no legal basis for its decision to immediately release Ieng and that international jurisprudence dictates that when international criminal proceedings are adjourned due to unfitness of the defendant to stand trial, the norm is for that individual to remain in custody or be released subject to restrictive conditions when there is a even a remote possibility that the individual could regain their mental faculties. The prosecutors point out that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] did not terminate proceedings against Talic [ICTY case information, PDF; materials] or Djukic [ICTY case information, PDF; materials] until their deaths even though they were afflicted with incurable terminal illnesses. The prosecutors further argue that the International Criminal Court Rules of Procedure and Evidence [text, PDF] mandate that judgments that an individual is unfit to stand trial be reviewed within 120 days unless there are "reasons to do otherwise" and there is no precedent for the individual to be released during this period.

The trial of the other three surviving leaders is set to begin [JURIST report] on Monday, November 21. The prosecution will have two days for opening statements followed by half a day of opening statements for the defense. The first segment of the trial is expected to conclude by December 16 for Christmas recess and will resume after the holiday break on January 9. In September, the ECCC ordered the trials be split into a series of smaller trials [JURIST report]. The ECCC said that the separation of trials will allow the tribunal to deliberate more quickly [press release] in the case [materials] against the elderly defendants. The first trial will focus on the beginning two phases of population movement and allegations of crimes against humanity, including murder, persecution not on religious grounds and forced disappearances associated with the first phases of population movement. Subsequent trials will focus on the third phase of population movement, genocide, persecution based on religious grounds and violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 [ICRC backgrounder].

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