PHNOM PENH - Ieng Thirith, one of just five Khmer Rouge leaders to be detained by the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, was freed to the custody of her family Sunday, after the court deemed her mentally unfit to stand trial for atrocity crimes.
Victims at the court said Monday they did not believe she had a degenerative mental condition, which court medical experts say is likely Alzheimer’s. But court monitors say the court issued a fair decision following intense medical examination that upholds international court precedents.
Ieng Thirith was released on condition she notify the court if she moves residence, and she was forced to hand over her passport and other travel documents. She is still charged with atrocity crimes, including genocide, and will have to answer any summons issued by the court, according to the release order.
Among a group of villagers from Kandal province who visited the court Monday, Iem Sreng, 65, said he did not believe Ieng Thirith is mentally ill.
“I think she’s pretending to have Alzheimer’s,” he said.
Another villager, Phin Chhan, 63, said she had heard news of Ieng Thirith’s release on the radio Sunday night, but she disagreed with the decision by the court.
“She should receive a life sentence, because she committed killings of many people during the Khmer Rouge regime,” Phin Chhan said.
Clair Duffy, a tribunal monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, said the tribunal must now work on its public outreach to explain the decision. She said she agreed with the decision, because Ieng Thirith lacks the capacity to defend herself.
Tribunal spokesman Sim Sovanarom said the charges were not dropped against Ieng Thirith. Were she found competent to stand trial in the future, she could be brought back before the court, he said.