The Khmer Rouge tribunal supreme court has increased the sentence of the former chief of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison to life.
Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, had his prison sentence increased to life by the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s highest judiciary chamber. The Phnom Penh Post reported the court decided undue weight had been given to mitigating factors, such as Duch’s expressions of remorse and cooperation, at his initial sentencing.
According to the Supreme Court Chamber president Kong Srim, Duch’s “leadership role and particular enthusiasm in the commission of his crimes are aggravating factors that should be given significant weight in the determination of his sentence.”
The Guardian reported Duch was originally convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder in July 2010. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison, although the sentence was reduced by 11 years for time served and legal technicalities.
Both prosecutors and the defence appealed the sentence, the former calling for life imprisonment and the latter labelling the sentence too harsh.
The ruling was final, with no other chance for appeal.
The prison Tuol Sleng, codenamed S-21, was converted from a school building in Phnom Penh shortly after the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. Hard figures are hard to come by, but the Cambodian Tribunal Monitor estimates the prison held around 14,000 people during its years of operation between 1975 and 1979, of whom about 12 survived.
The building is now the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes, its walls plastered with photographs of its prisoners, many of them still unidentified.
The case against Duch is the first to be concluded by the Khmer Rouge tribunal. Three further senior Khmer Rouge figures are currently on trial for crimes against humanity, genocide, religious persecution, homicide and torture. They are 85-year Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s second in command; 80-year old Khieu Samphan, an ex-head of state; and 86-year old Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister.