Phnom Penh: Cambodia`s UN-backed war crimes
tribunal on Tuesday ruled against freeing the Khmer Rouge`s ailing
former "First Lady" on health grounds and said she would
undergo medical treatment instead.
The court`s highest appeal body overturned a decision
last month to unconditionally release Ieng Thirith, 79, after
experts said she was unfit for trial because she has dementia
and most likely Alzheimer`s disease.
"The supreme court chamber concluded that the original
ground for keeping the accused in provisional detention,
namely to ensure her presence during the proceedings, remains
valid and relevant," judges said in a statement.
They added that the former social affairs minister would
be transferred to a hospital or similar facility for medical
treatment "which may help improve her mental health to such an
extent that she becomes fit to stand trial".
Her case will then be reviewed "no later than six months"
after the start of her treatment, the judges said.
Court spokesman Lars Olsen said it was unclear how soon
Ieng Thirith would be moved from the detention facility where
she has been held since 2007 with three co-accused, all former
"I can`t say how long it will take but obviously it`s a
pressing matter," Olsen said.
Judges admitted, however, that the chance of Ieng Thirith
recovering enough to answer to charges of war crimes, genocide
and crimes against humanity was "slight" as psychiatric
reports have said her condition is unlikely to improve.
Freeing Ieng Thirith -- who was the sister-in-law of
regime leader Pol Pot -- would have dismayed many Khmer Rouge
survivors still haunted by the horrors of the 1975-1979
regime, blamed for the deaths of up to two million people.
Prominent Khmer Rouge survivor Chum Mey, 80, one of just
a handful of people to walk out of a notorious torture prison
alive, welcomed the decision.
"As a victim, I`m very happy with the ruling. The court
took the right action," he said.
Trial monitor Clair Duffy from the US-based Open Society
Justice Initiative said she was puzzled by the decision to
re-examine Ieng Thirith`s fitness in several months` time.
"Medical experts said there was next to no likelihood of
her even being mentally fit to stand trial," she said. "All in
all, I`m confused about this outcome."
Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998,
the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of the Cambodian
population through starvation, overwork and executions in a
bid to create an agrarian utopia.