Cambodia’s war crimes court has ordered that Ieng Thirith, the 80-year-old sister-in-law of brutal Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, should no longer face accusations of war crimes because she is seen to be unfit to stand trial.
The UN-backed tribunal said in a statement this week
that there was no prospect the accused woman could be tried in the foreseeable future.
Her release from what would have been penetrating questions about any role or support she gave to Pol Pot’s mass-murder regime from 1975 to 1979 came after health experts said she was suffering from a form of dementia and memory loss and her ‘cognitive impairment is likely irreversible.’
Yet the conclusion of experts working for the prosecution contrasted sharply with testimony from Ieng Thirith’s psychiatrist, Chak Thida, who has told the court that her patient did not have the symptoms of dementia.
Miss Thida said Ieng Thirith was a ‘polite and neat’ lady who could read French accurately, although she did experience ‘some loss in memory’ due to her age.
Ieng Thirith, who is married to former foreign minister Ieng Sary, was accused of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity for her role in ‘Brother Number One’ Pol Pot’s communist regime, during which an estimated two million Cambodians were killed.
The goal of the Khmer Rouge regime was to create a communist utopia through social engineering, and saw million of people forced out of their homes in cities and towns to work in fields in the countryside.
The country was re-named Democratic Kampuchea and during the four years of Khmer Rouge’s reign, Cambodians died of starvation and torture at the hands of brutal ‘re-education’ guards as they were forced to work in fields, or were tortured and executed in prison camps.
In a bid to make all Cambodians equal, the regime slaughtered intellectuals, professionals, foreigners and artists who were all seen as ‘enemies’ of Democratic Kampuchea.
Three elderly former regime leaders remain on trial: Former prime minister Nuon Chea, also known as ‘Brother Number Two’ , former head of state Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith’s husband Ieng Sary.
Although released, Ieng Tirith has been warned by the prosecution not to interfere in the investigation and to remain in the country.
As recently as last November judges announced that Ieng Tirith should be released, however that ruling was overturned on appeal the following month.
Medical experts working for the prosecution said her mental state had since declined – opinions that were not shared by her psychiatrist.
Pol Pot died in 1998 of a heart attack in a jungle hut at the age of 73 without ever being brought to trial.