While court experts and monitors expressed concerns with underlying impacts of Friday’s verdict against S-21 chairman Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, for victims of the regime, a life sentence bought solace and justice.
Former S-21 detention facility operator Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, last Friday.
“Our Buddhist culture says that if you kill someone, you must be punished,” S-21 survivor Bou Meng said outside the courthouse on Friday.
“Now justice has happened. I have prayed to be able to tell my wife this news,” Bou Meng, whose wife was executed at the Choeung Ek killing fields during the Khmer Rouge regime, said.
More than 800 spectators crammed into the public gallery of the courthouse and spilled out to the small lawn adjacent to hear the words they had been waiting more than 30 years to hear.
“Life sentence – it is justice for the victims,” Kim Huy, a 60-year-old civil party in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s landmark first case, said after the verdict was announced.
“I never expected this verdict because first the court sentenced him so he will serve only 19 years in prison, now my wish to see him sentenced to life imprisonment is true,” Kim Huy said, smiling through her tears.
Encouraged by the delivery of a “just” sentence, victims said they now eagerly anticipated a repeat for Case 002, now before the tribunal.
Chum Mey, 81, another S-21 survivor, said the ECCC was the top court delivering justice to Cambodians.
“I notice Duch’s face turned black when he stood up to hear the announcement of his life sentence,” Chum Mey, whose wife and four children were killed during the regime, said.
“I expect Case 002 to turn out like this,” Chum Mey said.
“It must be a life sentence for all those leaders – if they do not receive a life sentence, then there is no justice.”
Civil party Sum Rith agreed that Duch should not serve his life sentence alone.
“Whether those leaders on trial now are telling the truth or not does not matter. Even if they don’t confess, the truth is the truth and I know the truth,” Sum Rith said.
“All the crimes during the Khmer Rouge regime were not committed by Duch alone.”