A UN-backed war crimes tribunal has sentenced the chief jailer of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime to 35 years in prison for his part in the torture and killing of more than 16,000 people.
This sentence marks the first time any major figure in the regime has been brought to account for their part in the “killing fields” genocide, that claimed the lives of about 1.7 million people, a quarter of Cambodia’s population.
Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, apparently showed no emotion as the verdict was read out, having admitted during the 77-day trial to controlling Tuol Sleng, a top secret detention centre in Phnom Penh, for the worst “enemies” of the state.
The 67-year old former maths teacher will serve 19 years after the court agreed to deduct the 11 years he spent in detention and the five he spent illegally detained in a military court. Prosecutors had sought a 40-year sentence.
Over a four-year period in the late 1970s, more than 16,000 men, women and children passed through Tuol Sleng, only 14 are thought to have survived. Most were tortured into making confessions before being loaded onto trucks and driven to the killing fields of Choeung Ek, where they were bludgeoned to death.
Duch had authorised the tortures and executions – including the pulling out of prisoners’ toenails, administering electric shocks and waterboarding – sometimes taking part himself, the court heard.
Duch has apparently shown some ‘remorse’ for his crimes. It hasn’t stopped him appealing the conviction and the length of the sentence though, surprise surprise. If it stands it will mean he might be 86 years old before he sees the light of day.