Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch has been found guilty of crimes against humanity today and sentenced to 35 years in prison. The sentence has disappointed many people who had expected him to receive life in prison and was met with dismay and shock. Duch (pronounced “Doik”) will not serve the full 35 years as he received 5 years off for illegal imprisonment and a further 11 years off for time already spent behind bars. It is likely then that the 67-year-old will serve 19 years in prison for his heinous crimes.
Although he confessed to his crimes and begged for forgiveness from the court, he still maintained that he was only following orders. He displayed the most incredible cruelty and brutality towards his victims.
“Despite acknowledging the role he played at Tuol Sleng, codenamed "S-21", he insisted that he had only been following orders from his superiors, and on the trial's final day in November shocked many by asking to be acquitted.
But prosecutors said the former maths teacher ordered the use of brutal torture methods to extract "confessions" from detainees - including pulling out toenails and administering electric shocks - and approved all the executions.
A meticulous record-keeper, Duch built up a huge archive of photos, confessions and other evidence documenting those held at Tuol Sleng.
In one memo he kept, a guard asked him what to do with six boys and three girls accused of being traitors. He replied: "Kill every last one."”
I still maintain that a truth and reconciliation commission would have done far more towards healing, acceptance and resolution than these trials. In an absence of such a mechanism though, the trials must go ahead. Thirty years might sound like a long time but it happened within living history and the survivors of the victims of these crimes need to see people like Kaing Guek Eav spend the rest of their lives behind bars.