Phnom Penh. In a historic first, a UN-backed court Monday sentenced a Khmer Rouge prison chief to 30 years in jail for crimes against humanity over mass executions during Cambodia’s “Killing Fields” era, AFP reported.
Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, is the first Khmer Rouge cadre to face justice in an international tribunal over the deaths of up to two million people through starvation, overwork and execution under the 1975-1979 regime.
But to the dismay of survivors and relatives of victims, the court took into account the years he had already served since his arrest in 1999, meaning that the 67-year-old could walk free in about 19 years.
“Millions of people were killed, millions of dollars have been spent (on the trial), but the killer could be released,” said a tearful Chum Mey, 79, one of only a handful who survived imprisonment and torture at the jail.
Duch apologised during his trial in Phnom Penh 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.
“The role of the accused as the undisputed head of S-21 is confirmed by the accused’s own admission, the testimony of witnesses and civil parties,” head judge Nil Nonn said.