Cambodia genocide tribunal blocks release of Khmer Rouge leader

[JURIST] The Supreme Court Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] on Tuesday ordered that former Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Thirith [ECCC profile] remain in detention [decision, PDF; press release]. The Trial Chamber found last month that Ieng Thirith is unfit to stand trial [JURIST report] for war crimes because of dementia from Alzheimer's disease and ordered her immediate release. The prosecution appealed [JURIST report]. Granting the prosecution's request, the Supreme Court Chamber found that the Trial Chamber must exhaust all measures to help Ieng Thirith become fit to stand trial. The Supreme Court Chamber ordered the Trial Chamber to arrange for treatment and reevaluate the accused after six months. Ieng Thirith, the former minister of social affairs under the Khmer Rouge regime, was the only female leader to be charged.

Ieng Thirith was declared unfit to stand trial just days before the trial of her and three other defendants was set to begin. Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist, Khieu Samphan, a former head of state, and Ieng Sary [ECCC profiles], the former foreign minister, went on trial [JURIST report] last month on charges of crimes against humanity, breach of international law and genocide. In testimony last week, Nuon Chea denied responsibility for the deaths of around 1.7 million people during the regime's rule during the 1970s. Because of the old age of the defendants, the tribunal decided to split the case into a series of smaller trials [JURIST report]. 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. The first segment of the trial is expected to conclude by December 16 for a recess and will resume after the break on January 9.

 

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