Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, a former Khmer Rouge prison chief was handed a 30-year prison sentence by a United Nations-backed war crimes court for his role in atrocities committed under the regime in the late 1970s, including murder, torture, rape, inhumane acts, crimes against humanity and other charges.
It is the first verdict issued so far in Phnom Penh by the court instituted in 2004 by the UN and government to try those responsible for crimes committed between 1975 and 1979, in the period between the communist revolution of Pol Pot and Vietnamese invasion.
Duch, 67, will only serve 19 years after the court subtracted 16 years for time already served - short of the maximum 40 years sought by the prosecution and the life behind bars many Cambodians demanded – due also to his “remorse” declared in court for what occurred at the S-21 detention centre in Phom Penh.
The former schoolteacher admitted during the eight-month trial to overseeing the torture and the killing of thousands of people but said he was only following orders.
According to the prosecution, over 12,273 people were killed, mainly accused of being spies or however enemies of the “revolution”.
The court instituted for crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge was set up after long complex negotiations.
The next trials could be more controversial and difficult, also on a political level, especially due to caution on the part of the Cambodian government.
The next to stand trial are former president Khieu Samphan, Khmer leader Nuon Chea, former Foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith.
It is believed that between 1975 and 1979, some 1.7 million people were killed in Cambodia.
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