Monday, 28 March 2011

Khmer Rouge jailer's war crimes appeal to begin

A Cambodian woman point to a portrait of former Khmer Rouge prison chief (S21) Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch

via CAAI

By Suy Se (AFP) –
PHNOM PENH — Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch will call for his release on Monday when Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court begins hearing appeals against his 30-year sentence.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was found guilty in July of war crimes and crimes against humanity for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people at the notorious torture prison Tuol Sleng in the late 1970s.

He was the first Khmer Rouge cadre to face an international tribunal.

During his trial, the jailer repeatedly apologised for overseeing mass murder at the detention centre -- also known as S-21 -- but shocked the court by finally asking to be acquitted in November 2009.

In their appeal hearing on Monday, Duch's lawyers plan to argue that the court has no jurisdiction over their client because he was not one of the regime's senior leaders, nor one of those most responsible for the crimes committed.

"The court is not allowed to try a person that does not fall into one of those two groups," defence lawyer Kang Ritheary told AFP, adding that Duch was only following orders.

The 68-year-old was initially given 35 years in jail but the court reduced the sentence on the grounds that he had been detained illegally for years.

Taking into account time already served, Duch could walk free in less than 19 years, to the dismay of many victims of the 1975-1979 hardline communist movement.

Prosecutors, whose appeal will be heard on Tuesday, are hoping to have Duch's sentence increased to life, to be commuted to 45 years for time served in unlawful detention.

They say in their appeal brief that the verdict did "not adequately reflect the seriousness of the crimes or the respondent's role in those crimes".

They also want enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, extermination and other inhumane acts to be added to Duch's list of convictions.

The tribunal's Supreme Court Chamber is expected to announce its ruling on the appeals in late June.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population through starvation, overwork and execution.

S-21 in Phnom Penh was at the centre of the regime's security apparatus and thousands of inmates were taken from there for execution in a nearby orchard.

Duch has been detained since 1999, when he was found working as a Christian aid worker in the jungle. He was formally arrested by the tribunal in July 2007.

Four more of the regime's former members -- including "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea -- are due to go trial later this year and Duch is expected to appear as a witness in the case.

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