Prosecutors in the trial of the Khmer Rouge’s torturer-in-chief have demanded a 40-year sentence.
Kaing Guek Eav, known by Pol Pot’s regime as Comrade Duch, now aged 67, has admitted running the infamous Cambodian torture camp S-21. But he has told the UN-backed war crimes court in Phnom Penh that he was just following orders. Prosecutors could have asked for life imprisonment for Duch but given time already served, partial cooperation with the court and efforts towards national reconciliation, are seeking a 40-year term. Between 15,000 and 20,000 prisoners are thought to have entered S-21, the Khmer Rouge’s main detention centre, between 1975 and 1979. Only around a dozen of them emerged alive. They have described how they were routinely beaten, received electric shocks, had their toenails torn out, and were waterboarded. Surgeries were performed on detainees without anaesthetic. Duch is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. He has denied personally killing or torturing the S-21 prisoners, and testified that he acted with reluctance on orders from his superiors, saying he feared for the safety of his family and himself. Duch has accepted responsibility for his role in overseeing the prison, unlike four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial. A verdict in the Duch trial is expected in March 2010.