Monday, August 29, 2011

Extraordinary Chambers for Cambodia Begins Fitness Hearings for Elderly Defendants

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) held hearings today to determine whether two elderly defendants are sufficiently fit mentally and physically to stand trial.  The ECCC is charged with prosecuting those responsible for mass killings and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s.

The two defendants, Nuon Chea, 84, and Ieng Thirith, 79, are among the four most senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge facing charges before the ECCC.  Nuon Chea was known as “Brother Number Two” under the Khmer Rouge, and acted as chief policy architect of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, which controlled the country’s internal security apparatus and rendered support for the regime’s policies of forcible relocation, enslavement and other inhumane acts.  leng Thirith was a social affairs minister and is married to Ieng Sary, an 84-year-old former history professor who served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister under the Khmer Rouge and who is also on trial.  They are accused of genocide, murder, torture, religious persecution and other war crimes and crimes against humanity over their alleged actions when the Khmer Rouge was in power. 

Professor John Campbell, a specialist geriatrician from New Zealand, was appointed by the trial chamber as a medical expert to assess the mental and physical health of the defendants.  Professor Campbell reported that in his opinion, Ieng Thirith is “cognitively impaired” to an extent that will compromise her rights to a fair trial.  Professor Campbell also opined that although Nuon Chea is unable to sit for long periods, he is otherwise fit to stand trial and did not suffer from cognitive or memory problems.

The hearings are open to the public and are scheduled to continue for two more days.


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