Thursday, October 20, 2011
One of the Khmer Rouge regime leaders facing genocide and other war crime charges has been diagnosed with dementia and may not be able to participate in court proceedings, the United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia heard today.
According to the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials (UNAKRT), a decision on whether Ieng Thirith, former Social Affairs Minister for the Democratic Kampuchea, can continue with trial proceedings will be issued before the start of substantive hearings next month.
Ms. Ieng is on trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity along with her husband and former foreign minister Ieng Sary, former Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, and former head of State Khieu Samphan, all leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime during the late 1970s.
Four expert psychiatrists who examined her last month diagnosed Ms. Thirith with clinical dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s, which would hinder her participation in court hearings.
“She has a diagnosis of dementia… This was a consensus diagnosis, so we all agreed on this,” forensic psychiatrist Seena Fazel told the trial chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), which was established based on an agreement between the Cambodian Government and the UN.
The experts told the court that while she did understand questions posed to her, she had trouble understanding why they were being asked, and did not remember the name of her husband or whether she had a son.
“We came to the conclusion that she would have considerable difficulty following court proceedings,” said Huot Lina, who also took part in the examination.
Ms. Ieng’s counsel, Diana Ellis, argued it would be unfair if she was tried when she was unable to comprehend the nature of the charges and to participate in the proceedings in a meaningful way.
“We submit that it would be wrong to let her stand to trial in this circumstance,” she said, urging the chamber to sever her from the case and consider discontinuation.
However, prosecutors oppose the move, saying doctors had found Ms. Ieng could still understand the meaning of questions and was capable of interacting with others, arguing this would enable her to participate in the proceedings.
(UN Press Release)