[JURIST] Ieng Thirith [ECCC profile], the sister-in-law of Pol Pot considered the “first lady” of the Khmer Rouge, died [press release] Saturday at the age of 83. Ieng Thirith was Minister of Social Action during Democratic Kampuchea [backgrounder, PDF] between 1975 and 1979. From late 2011 to 2012 Ieng Thirith, her husband and Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, and other senior members of the party stood trial for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Although indicted, Ieng Thirith was judged unfit for trial [JURIST report] due to ongoing medical issues, and was excused to the custody of her family. According to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC), Ieng Thirith remained under judicial supervision until her death.
Cambodia continues to struggle with the legacy of the Khmer Rouge, an extremist group that attempted to set up an agrarian socialist society in the nation in the mid- to late-1970s. In March the ECCC charged [JURIST report] former Khmer Rouge member Cadre Ao An with crimes against humanity for his role in the maintenance of an execution site and two security centers during the Democratic Kampuchea. Earlier in March Human Rights Watch called on [JURIST report] the Cambodian government to act on criminal charges brought against former Khmer Rouge leaders. Also in March the ECCC charged [JURIST report] district commander Im Chaem and former Khmer Rouge navy chief Meas Muth with homicide and crimes against humanity, despite a warning by the country’s prime minister Hun Sen not to add the defendants. Cambodia’s UN-backed tribunal restarted genocide hearings in a separate case in January after a delay in which defense lawyers refused [JURIST reports] to participate. The Khmer Rouge have been blamed for roughly 1.7 million deaths between 1975 and 1979 while leader Pol Pot was in power.