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Ieng Thirith could walk free today

Former Khmer Rouge Social Action Minister Ieng Thirith sits through a hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in June.

Accused Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Thirith could walk out of the tribunal’s detention centre today and return to her colonial-era villa in Phnom Penh, after the Supreme Court Chamber issues a decision on her continued detention.

The Supreme Court Chamber, the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s highest appeal body, had 15 days to decide whether Ieng Thirith, who has been found unfit to stand trial, should be unconditionally released from detention. That 15-day period expires today.

“The Supreme Court Chamber will announce their decision [today],” Phat Pouv Seng, Ieng Thirith’s legal counsel, told the Post yesterday.

“I am strongly confident that she will be freed as there is not any evidence to keep her in detention,” Phat Pouv Seng said. “If she is released, she can go wherever she wants, maybe to her house in Phnom Penh, or she can go to live with her children in Pailin province.”

On November 17, the Trial Chamber found Ieng Thirith unfit to stand trial due to her affliction by a degenerative dementing illness. However, the international and Cambodian judges could not reach an agreement on how this affected Ieng Thirith’s detention at the tribunal’s Detention Centre.

As a consequence of judicial paralysis, judges ordered Ieng Thirith’s unconditional release from the detention centre where she has been held since her arrest in 2007.

The co-prosecutors appealed the Trial Chamber’s decision to release the former Khmer Rouge Social Affairs Minister, who was charged with genocide, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity including murder, extermination and enslavement.

The Supreme Court Chamber accepted the appeal and had 15 days to issue a decision.

“The 15 days is due to elapse this week,” legal affairs spokesman for the tribunal Lars Olsen said, indicating the decision could come today or tomorrow. “But if there are exceptional circumstances, the Supreme Court Chamber can take longer to issue a decision.”

The rules governing the court’s procedure do not make clear what these “exceptional circumstances” would entail.

Clair Duffy of tribunal monitoring group Open Society Justice Initiative told the Post that even if there are exceptional circumstances, there would be pressure on the Supreme Court Chamber to issue a timely judgment.

“In matters that concern the liberties of an accused, there is a need for more expeditious decision-making,” Duffy said.

The trial in Case 002 continues today.



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