Sunday 23 July 2017

19 years for Pol Pot jailer who oversaw torture of 16,000

Andrew Buncombe in Phnom Penh

IT WAS 9.53am when the curtain in front of the glass-enclosed court chamber swept back. When it did, it revealed Kaing Guek Eav -- known as Duch -- once head of the Khmer Rouge's most notorious jail, sitting at a bench, expressionless.

Over the next 60 minutes, the chair of the court calmly and methodically outlined why this United Nations-backed tribunal had concluded that the slightly-built man with thinning grey hair was responsible for terrible, "heinous" offences that constituted crimes against humanity. Crucially, they confirmed that his claim to have been simply following orders constituted no defence.

The court ruled that the obsessive 67-year-old man, who oversaw the Tuol Sleng interrogation centre where around 16,000 people were beaten, tortured and questioned before being dispatched to die, should be sentenced to 35 years in jail. After taking into account time already served and other factors, the sentence was reduced to 18 years and 10 months.

Chum Mey (78), one of a handful of people to have survived Tuol Seng, where they were subjected to beatings, electric shocks and water-boarding, punched his fist into his palm in frustration.

"This is the second time for me that tears will drop. The first time was when I was tortured, and now again with this verdict," he declared, wiping his face. "Duch gave orders to kill many people and I want him to be sentenced for his whole life."

Prosecutors have 30 days to challenge the court's ruling. (© Independent News Service)

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