Convicted Khmer Rouge prison chief to appeal: lawyer

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

(Photo: Reuters)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP) - – Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch will appeal against his conviction by Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal, which sentenced him to 30 years in jail, his defence lawyer said Tuesday.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the court on Monday in a ruling that has been hailed as a "historic milestone" in tackling impunity in the country.

He is the first Khmer Rouge cadre to face an international tribunal over crimes committed under the 1975-1979 hardline communist regime.

The 67-year-old was initially handed 35 years but the court reduced the jail sentence on the grounds that he had been detained illegally for years before the UN-backed tribunal was established.

"We will appeal against the (court's) decision," Duch's lawyer Kar Savuth told AFP by telephone, without elaborating.

Many survivors and relatives of victims were dismayed by the verdict, which also took into account the years Duch has served since his arrest in 1999, meaning that he could walk free in about 19 years.

"He only apologised to the judges. Duch didn't apologise to the victims," said Chum Mey, 79, one of the handful who survived the prison because his mechanical skills were put to use repairing sewing machines and water pumps.

Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Tuesday told reporters: "From my own point of view, not that of the government... the sentence is not suitable.

"Tens of thousands of people were tortured at Tuol Sleng and killed at Choeung Ek (a former orchard) -- it appears that the sentencing is too light."

But UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi welcomed the verdict against Duch as a "historic milestone".

"I hope that this landmark conviction will serve as a catalyst for the government to address impunity and accelerate its legal and judicial reforms," Subedi said in a statement.

During his trial, Duch repeatedly apologised for overseeing the mass murder of 15,000 men, women and children at Tuol Sleng prison -- also known as S-21 -- but shocked the court in November by finally asking to be acquitted.

Kar Savuth in November said Duch wanted to be acquitted on the grounds that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, while his other defence lawyer Francois Roux had argued for leniency based on his contrition.

Duch then sacked Roux for "loss of confidence", just weeks before a verdict.

Roux in November the about-face was a "bad surprise" and apparently linked to political interference in the trial, noting that premier Hun Sen -- himself a former Khmer Rouge cadre before turning against the movement -- had previously said he hoped the tribunal would fail.

Duch's appeal for release "calls into question Duch's plea of culpability, but also the competence of the court," the French lawyer told AFP at the time.

But after the verdict Roux, who is now head of the defence section for the UN special tribunal for Lebanon, said he hoped it helped reconciliation with Duch.

"I express my hopes that this trial, including the cooperation of the accused to justice, has provided an initial response to the Cambodian people about the tragedy he has lived," Roux said in a statement.

Prosecutors have said they are considering whether to appeal against the sentence. They had sought a 40-year prison term from the tribunal, which did not have the power to impose the death penalty.

But international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley told AFP Tuesday he thought it was a "logical, well-reasoned judgment".

"You must recall that this is a man who actually acknowledged responsibility and pleaded guilty but still received a sentence of 35 years, which is actually on the high side as far as guilty pleas are concerned," Cayley said.

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


Post a Comment