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The Prosecutor v. Ieng Thirith

Court Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Cambodia
Case number 002
Decision title Judgment yet to come
  • Office of the Co-Prosecutors
  • Ieng Thirith alias Phea
Other names
  • Phea
Categories Crimes against humanity, Genocide, War crimes
Keywords crimes against humanity, deprivation of liberty, enslavement, extermination, genocide, inhuman treatment, kill, Murder, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape, torture, unlawful confinement, unlawful deportation, war crimes
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After the fall of the Cambodian government in 1975, the Communist Party, under the leadership of Pol Pot, came to power and renamed the State the Democratic Kampuchea. An armed conflict broke out with Vietnam, which lasted until 1979. From 1975 until 1979, Pol Pot and the Communist Party of Kampuchea sought to establish a revolutionary State and introduced a policy of ‘smashing’ their enemies, a form of physical and psychological destruction that consisted of arbitrary detention, torture and execution. This policy lead to the deaths of an estimated two million people.

The Accused, Ieng Thirith, was the highest-ranking female in the regime, Pol Pot’s sister-in-law and the wife of Ieng Sary, the regime’s former Foreign Minister. Ieng Thirith was indicted in 2010 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for her role in the events. In September 2012, on the basis of repeated examinations by multiple medical experts, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia found the now 80-year-old Ieng Thirith unfit to stand trial due to her dementia and released her subject to certain conditions. Although the charges have not been withdrawn, a trial is unlikely to happen in the future considering her age and mental state.

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Procedural history

On 14 November 2007, the Accused, Ieng Thirith, was placed in provisional detention with her husband, Ieng Sary. She was charged by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia with crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution and other inhumane acts).

On 14 January 2010, the Co-Investigating Judges concluded their investigation against former Khmer Rouge leaders including Ieng Thirith.

On 15 September 2010, Ieng Thirith was indicted on charges of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, rape, persecution, other inhumane acts), war crimes (wilful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, wilfully depriving a prisoner of war or civilian of the rights of fair and regular trial, unlawful deportation or unlawful confinement of a civilian) and genocide committed against the Cham Muslims and Vietnamese populations of Cambodia. Furthermore, Ieng Thirith faced charges under the 1956 Cambodian Criminal Code (homicide, torture, religious persecution).

On 17 November 2011, the Trial Chamber of the ECCC found her unfit to stand trial and ordered her unconditional release.

On 13 December 2011, the decision of the Trial Chamber was set aside by the Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC. The Trial Chamber was directed to request additional treatment and to order that Ieng Thirith undergo a new examination to determine whether she is fit to stand trial.

On 13 September 2012, the Trial Chamber concluded that Ieng Thirith remains unfit to stand trial and ordered again her unconditional release.

On 14 September 2012, the Co-Prosecutors appealed the decision on the grounds that the release should not have been ordered unconditionally.

On 16 September 2012, the President of the Supreme Court Chamber ruled as a provisional measure that Ieng Thirith be released conditionally, pending the decision of the Supreme Court Chamber on the merits of the appeal by the Co-Prosecutors.

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Legally relevant facts

Ieng Thirith, alias Phea, was the Minister of Social Action of Democratic Kampuchea. She is accused of having directed, encouraged, enforced or otherwise rendered support to Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) policy and practice between April 1975 and January 1979 which was characterized by murder, extermination, imprisonment, persecution and other inhuman acts such as forcible transfers of the population, enslavement and forced labour.

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Articles 4, 5, 6, 29 and 39 of the Law to Amend the 2001 Law on Establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers.
  • Articles 209, 210, 500, 501, 503 and 508 of the 1956 Penal Code of Cambodia.

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Instruments cited


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Related cases

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Additional materials

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