Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cambodia: Tribunal concludes appeal hearing for convicted Khmer Rouge figure

UN - The United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia dealing with mass killings and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge three decades ago today concluded the appeal hearing for the former head of a notorious detention camp who was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity last year.

Kaing Guek Eav, whose alias is Duch, was sentenced last July to 35 years in prison by the trial chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), with a five-year reduction to remedy his illegal detention at a Cambodian military court.

The court found that Mr. Kaing not only implemented, but also actively contributed to the development of the policies of the Communist Party of Kampuchea at the S-21 camp, where numerous Cambodians were unlawfully detained, subjected to inhumane conditions and forced labour, tortured and executed in the late 1970s.

During the three-day appeal hearing held by the ECCC’s Supreme Court Chamber, Mr. Kaing and his defence team reiterated that he was neither a senior leader nor one of those most responsible for heinous crimes being prosecuted at the court, and therefore should not have been tried at the court.

He told the chamber – consisting of four Cambodian judges and three internationals selected by the UN Secretary-General – that he merely acted on orders from his superior and he would have died if he didn’t. “I survived the regime, only because I respectfully and strictly followed the orders,” he said.

Meanwhile, the prosecution demanded a life imprisonment for Mr. Kaing’s role as a chairman of the security prison, where at least 12,000 people died during the period from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.

Co-Prosecutors Chea Leang and Andrew Cayley claimed that Mr. Kaing should have been cumulatively convicted for the crimes against humanity of persecution, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, extermination and other inhumane acts as well as the enslavement of those detained in S-21. They demanded the Supreme Court Chamber impose a heavier sentence.

“We call for the imposition of a life term, reduced to 45 years simply to take account of that period of illegal detention,” Mr. Cayley told the judges. “But for the purposes of history, a life term must be imposed in this case.”

The Supreme Court Chamber is expected to hand down its appeals judgment in a few months. The appeal took place as the ECCC prepares for its second case concerning the four most senior members of the Democratic Kampuchea regime who are still alive.

Estimates vary but as many as two million people are thought to have died during the rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, which was then followed by a protracted period of civil war in the impoverished South-East Asian country.