Kh­mer Rouge jailer’s sen­tence stirs ou­trage

Key player in geno­cide of 16,000 faces 19 years

Austin American-Statesman - - TUESDAYBRIEFING -

PH­NOM PENH, Cam­bo­dia — A war crimes tri­bunal sen­tenced the Kh­mer Rouge’s chief jailer Mon­day to a prison term that will see him serve less than half a day for ev­ery per­son killed at the no­to­ri­ous tor­ture cen­ter he com­manded.

Sur­vivors expressed anger and dis­be­lief that a key player in the geno­cide that wiped out a quar­ter of Cam­bo­dia’s pop­u­la­tion could one day walk free — de­spite be­ing con­victed of war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity.

“I can’t ac­cept this,” said Saodi Ouch, 46, shak­ing so hard she could hardly talk. “My fam­ily died … my older sis­ter, my older brother. I’m the only one left.” Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, was the first ma­jor Kh­mer Rouge fig­ure to face trial more than three decades af­ter the “killing fields” regime tried to turn the coun­try into a vast agrar­ian so­ci­ety — lead­ing to the deaths of 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple.

As com­man­der of the top se­cret Tuol Sleng prison — code-named S-21 — the 67-year-old Duch ad­mit­ted to over­see­ing the tor­ture and deaths of as many as 16,000 peo­ple.

He was sen­tenced to 35 years in prison but will spend only 19 in jail — 11 years were shaved off for time served and an­other five for il­le­gal de­ten­tion in a mil­i­tary prison.

“It is just un­ac­cept­able to have a man who killed thou­sands of peo­ple serv- ing just 19 years,” said Theary Seng, a hu­man rights lawyer, who lost both her par­ents to the Kh­mer Rouge and has been work­ing with other vic­tims to find jus­tice.

“It comes down to serv­ing 111⁄ hours

2 per life that he took,” she said, adding that if pros­e­cu­tors could get only such a le­nient sen­tence in a case in which the de­fen­dant ad­mit­ted his guilt, they could ex­pect even less in the up­com­ing trial of four se­nior Kh­mer Rouge fig­ures.

The U.N.-backed tri­bunal is sched­uled to try the group’s top ide­ol­o­gist, Nuon Chea, 84; its for­mer head of state, Khieu Sam­phan, 79; and two other top lead­ers, both in their 80s, early next year. Un­like Duch, they have de­nied any guilt.

Sev­eral other ma­jor fig­ures have died, in­clud­ing the Kh­mer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, in 1998.

Judges said that in hand­ing down their ver­dict Mon­day, they took into con­sid­er­a­tion the his­tor­i­cal con­text of the atroc­i­ties: The 1975-79 regime was the prod­uct of the Cold War times.

They also rec­og­nized that Duch — un­like any of the oth­ers in de­ten­tion — was not in the Kh­mer Rouge’s in­ner cir­cle, had co­op­er­ated with the court and shown ex­pres­sions of re­morse, how­ever “limited.”

But they re­jected claims that he was act­ing on or­ders from the top or that he was a “cog in the ma­chine” who could not get out.

“In car­ry­ing out his func­tions, he showed a high de­gree of ef­fi­ciency and zeal,” the judges wrote. “He worked tire­lessly to en­sure that S-21 ran as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble and did so out of un­ques­tion­ing loy­alty to his su­pe­ri­ors.”

Duch re­vealed lit­tle emo­tion through­out the 77-day trial.

Kaing Guek Eav

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