'Deeply enmeshed' in the criminal system

Cambodian court rules Khmer Rouge's "Duch" was guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conve

    Guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention – war crimes to you and me.

    He wasn’t under duress or merely following orders. Kaing Guek Eav – or Duch – was "deeply enmeshed" in the criminal system that was S21.

    And so the head of the Khmer Rouge’s most notorious detention and torture centre in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison. 

    Five years less than prosecutors had asked for, mind you, as the ECCC judges took time off for mitigating circumstances – his apparent remorse, his co-operation with the court, and his potential for rehabilitation.

    But then there was a further reduction on account of the time he’d spent in illegal military detention.

    So now we’re down to 30 years, and given that he’s already been in detention of one kind or another for 11 years Duch could be free in 19 – or by 2029.

    For me I felt a sense of relief that Duch had finally been held accountable, as I watched him stand there listening. I wondered what Duch must have been feeling, his face inscrutable amid the glare of the court cameras and scores of people watching in the public gallery. The pressroom was silent.

    I’m not a judge, or even a legal expert, so how do you impose a sentence fitting of the unspeakable crimes committed at S21? At least one count of rape victims who were deliberately - slowly - bled to death and countless other atrocities.

    I was convinced the court would find some reason to let him off with a much lighter sentence.

    For many, no amount of time was ever going to be long enough for Duch to be punished for the offences he committed.


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