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Cambodia Khmer Rouge co-founder dies while on trial for war crimes

Khmer Rouge Deputy Foreign Minister and co-founder Ieng Sary [ECCC profie; JURIST news archive], who was on trial for war crimes in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] for his involvement in the killing of 1.7 million people, died [press release] Thursday at the age of 87. Sary was originally detained in November 2007 and was facing charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. He was battling heart problems and was admitted to a hospital in Phnom Penh on March 4 due to weakness and severe fatigue [AP report]. Sary, who was on trial along with Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea [ECCC profiles], was the brother-in-law of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot [BBC backgrounder]. The court has terminated the proceedings [decision, PDF] against Ieng Sary.

The ECCC has had numerous difficulties in trying the former Khmer Rouge leaders, having obtained only one conviction [JURIST report]. The tribunal has faced funding shortfalls, with court translators currently on strike [Bangkok Post report]. In September the ECCC released [JURIST report] the former "First Lady" of the Khmer Rouge regime, Ieng Thirith [ECCC profile] due to her degenerative illness, likely Alzheimers. In November 2011 the ECCC ruled that Ieng Sary was not protected [JURIST report] from genocide charges by a 15-year-old royal pardon and amnesty. In September 2011 the court ordered [JURIST report] the trials of Ieng Sary and the other alleged Khmer Rouge leaders to be split into a series of smaller trials. The ECCC said that the separation of trials would allow the tribunal to deliberate more quickly in the case against the elderly defendants.

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