26 July 2010
Comrade Duch gets 35 years
According to the Guardian Comrade Duch has been sentenced to 35 years in prison by a UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia. The sentence was the first verdict involving a leader of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.
Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, listened impassively as the chief judge read out the verdict, convicting him of crimes against humanity and war crimes. He will serve only 19 years of the sentence, because Judge Nil Nonn said the court would shave off the 11 years he has already spent in detention and five more for being illegally detained in a military court.
Duch, 67, had faced a maximum sentence of life in prison, and many victims and their relatives watching the verdict were angry that his sentence was not more severe. Some of them broke down in tears.
Duch admitted to heading Toul Sleng, a top secret detention centre in Phnom Penh for the worst "enemies" of the state. More than 16,000 people passed through its gates before they were killed. Torture used to extract confessions included pulling out prisoners' toenails, administering electric shocks and waterboarding.
"I can't accept this," said Saodi Ouch, 46, echoing what many Cambodians would see as a light sentence. She was weeping so hard she could hardly talk. "My family died … my older sister, my older brother. I'm the only one left."
An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died from starvation, medical neglect, slave-like working conditions and execution under the Khmer Rouge’s insane regime. Although the leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 four other top members of the Khmer Rouge are awaiting trial.
A former maths teacher, Duch joined the Khmer Rouge in 1967. Ten years later, he was the trusted head of its ultimate killing machine, S-21, which became the code name for Tuol Sleng. Only 14 prisoners are thought to have survived ordeals at the prison that included medieval-like tortures, followed by executions and burials outside Phnom Penh.
Although an effective 19 year sentence does not sound much for such appalling crimes, it should mean that Duch will die in prison in a way that his victims did not. That Duch has expressed remorse for his crimes should make the sentence meaningful. Now off to prison and die in misery you evil bastard!