By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
PHNOM PEHN, Cambodia — The Khmer Rouge prison boss, Kaing Guek Eav, more commonly known as Duch, admitted personal responsibility for the torture and murder of more than 12,000 people. He shocked the war crimes court by asking to be acquitted and released.
Duch is one of five aging senior cadres facing trial in the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians who were murdered or died of starvation or overwork. From 1975 to 1979, before being removed after an invasion by the Vietnamese, the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge regime sought to create an agrarian utopia by abolishing religion, money and schools and forcing most of the population onto collective farms.
Duch’s nine-month trial concluded with Duch asking the judges to consider his co-operation with the court, and proceeded to ask that the 10 years he had already served in jail be used as his sentence, and set him free. In the last statement of his concluding remarks, he said: “I would ask the chamber to release me, thank you very much.”
The statement reportedly came only two days after he told the court he was ultimately accountable for the deaths that occurred while he headed the Khmer Rouge’s Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. Duch had admitted, “I am solely and individually responsible for the loss of at least 12,380 lives.” Duch was claimed to be responsible for the thousands of deaths, most of whom were tortured detainees at the notorious S-21 prison, where Duch was commander, before inflicting death in the nearby “killing fields.”
Officials involved in the proceeding seem skeptical. Prosecutor, William Smith, said outside of the court, that he was surprised by Duch’s last-minute change of heart. Smith stated, “The fact that he entered a request for an acquittal reinforces in our mind that his remorse is limited.” The prosecution has asked for 40 year’s jail for Duch, 67.
The judges are expected to deliver a ruling in March of next year. The maximum penalty they can impose is life imprisonment.
For more information, please see:
Sydney Morning Herald – Killing fields accused may not live to face court – November 27, 2009
The Times Online – Please release me begs Khmer Rouge torturer-in-chief – November 27, 2009
The Guardian –Cambodia torturer Duch – killer of 12,380 – asks court to set him free – November 27, 2009
CNN – Closing arguments end in Khmer Rouge trial – November 27, 2009