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Ieng Thirith’s fitness on trial

111020_03
Former Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith attends a hearing at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday in Phnom Penh.

Former Khmer Rouge Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith has “dementia” and would likely “interrupt” proceedings if she were declared fit to stand trial in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s upcoming second case, psychiatric experts testified yesterday.

United Kingdom forensic psychiatrist Seena Fazel and Cambodian psychiatrist Lina Huot testified that Alzheimer’s disease was the “most likely form of dementia” for the 79-year-old, who stands accused of war crimes and genocide.

The two experts testified that while “broadly speaking” Ieng Thirith grasped the charges against her, she did not have sufficient understanding to participate meaningfully in her trial. “I think in all likelihood it would interrupt the smooth running of any trial,” Seena Fazel said in court.

“It’s likely her abilities will fluctuate, that there will be occasions where she may not be able to attend court and … where she’ll need some extra input from her legal team because of her problems with her memory.”

The two were among four psychiatric experts appointed by the court to conduct further assessment of Ieng Thirith, following hearings in August at which New Zealand geriatrician John Campbell stated that she would have “great difficulty” testifying in her own defence.

The hearing into Ieng Thirith’s fitness to stand trial will continue today, while a decision on former KR Brother Number Two Nuon Chea’s fitness to stand trial is pending.

Meanwhile, at a hearing on reparations for civil parties, civil party lawyers said they had concerned about the potential impact the recent severance of case 002 into a series of discrete trials could have on civil parties.

“Severing the case significantly alters the scope of our requests and we are in a confused situation,” civil party lead co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau Fort said in court.

Civil party lawyers are concerned more than half of the 4,000 civil parties in Case 002 may miss out on any reparations if there are no subsequent trials in Case 002 – a likely scenario given the advanced age of the four accused.

The Trial Chamber announced this week that opening statements in case 002, which is set to try the four remaining senior leaders of the KR regime, would commence on November 21.

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