News / Asia

Lawyer: Khmer Rouge Defendant Unfit for Trial

Ieng Thirith, former social affairs minister of Khmer Rouge regime and one of four leaders expected to face trial next year, shown at Cambodia's war crimes tribunal near Phnom Penh. (file photo)
Ieng Thirith, former social affairs minister of Khmer Rouge regime and one of four leaders expected to face trial next year, shown at Cambodia's war crimes tribunal near Phnom Penh. (file photo)

The lawyer for the only female Khmer Rouge leader facing genocide charges in Cambodia's U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal says her client has dementia and should not be put on trial.

Defense attorney Diana Ellis on Thursday told the court in Phnom Penh that 79-year-old defendant Ieng Thirith has, in the lawyer's words, "no ability to recall events in her life... ," and as such "should be found unfit to stand trial."

Mental health experts told tribunal judges Wednesday that the former Khmer Rouge social affairs minister had serious health issues that could prevent her from standing trial.  It was not immediately clear when the court will rule on the motion.

Ieng Thirith faces an array of charges, including crimes against humanity and war crimes in the deaths of up to 2 million Cambodians during Khmer Rouge rule.  The other defendants are nominal Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, reputed chief ideologue Nuon Chea and Ieng Thirth's husband, Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Leng Sary.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998.

In other developments, lawyers representing 4,000 victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities on Thursday presented a "wish list" for reparations to the tribunal for consideration if and guilty verdicts are reached.  A U.N. statement said the list included requests for a national day of remembrance, provisions for health services for elderly survivors, and vocational training for those ordered by the regime into forced marriages. Vocational training would also extend to the children of such marriages.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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