British lawyer Diana Ellis on Tuesday was sworn in at the Court of Appeal as the seventh foreign member of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Ellis, who with Cambodian attorney Phat Pov Seang will represent former Khmer Rouge Minister of Social Action Ieng Thirith before the Khmer Rouge tribunal, said she was gratified by the warm welcome offered by the court’s prosecutor, Nget Sarath, and three judges.
“They gave me good advice, that I familiarize myself with the system and rules in Cambodia,” said Ellis, a criminal lawyer who in 2001 was appointed as Queen’s Council, the highest distinction a British attorney can attain.
Ellis, who joined the Bar of England and Wales in 1978, said she has worked on one other international criminal case, defending Ferdinand Nahimana at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Ellis declined to comment on Ieng Thirith, who is facing charges of crimes against humanity, or the state of her health.
Ieng Thirith’s bail hearing at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is scheduled for today. In their appeal of her detention, lawyers argued that Ieng Thirith, 76, should be allowed to return to her Phnom Penh home, in part because she “suffers from a number of debilitating and chronic conditions, both mental and physical.”
Prosecutors have said there is no evidence to support her alleged mental illness and that she is healthy enough to stay in detention.
Her medical report has not been made public.
Phat Pov Seang said Ieng Thirith is on medication for a mental condition that he declined to specify, saying he would save discussion of her health for her pre-trial detention hearing.
Ly Tayseng, the secretary-general of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said the Bar Council has approved a total of 22 foreign lawyers to work at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, with one additional application still pending.
Those lawyers come from France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, the US, Singapore, Japan, Australia and Thailand, he said.
Ly Tayseng added that they are ready to represent both defendants—should any more be named—and victims before the ECCC.