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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - S-21 chief’s attorney seeks lenient sentence

S-21 chief’s attorney seeks lenient sentence

Roux urges judges to see Kaing Guek Eav’s humanity; pronounces end of the name ‘Duch’.

FRENCH defence lawyer Francois Roux on Thursday scolded prosecutors for describing Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, as a driving force behind Khmer Rouge-era executions, saying his client was guilty only of the “crime of obedience” and should not be made into a scapegoat.

“Has Duch become Pol Pot?” Roux wondered aloud before noting that the prison chief had accepted responsibility for 12,380 of the estimated 1.7 million deaths that occurred at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

“That means that S-21 is responsible for less than 1 percent of the deaths in Cambodia, and you’re telling the chamber that Duch started the network of terror that bathed Cambodia in blood. How dare you?”

Roux challenged judges to bring Duch back “into the fold of humanity” by offering a lighter sentence than the 40 years requested by prosecutors Wednesday, citing as possible mitigating factors Duch’s professed contrition and his cooperation with the tribunal.

Though Roux did not specify what he viewed as an appropriate sentence, he compared Duch to Dragan Obrenovic, the Bosnian Serb army brigade commander who was tried for war crimes in connection with the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were killed.

Obrenovic received a 17-year sentence after apologising for his role in the massacre. Roux on Thursday showed a video clip of prosecutor Peter McCloskey speaking at a sentencing hearing in that case.

“He did not do the right thing,” McCloskey said of Obrenovic. “He chose instead to do what his superiors had ordered him to do, and what unfortunately had been a part of this war ever since 1992. But he brings to us today, and to the former Yugoslavia and to this tribunal, some hope that reconciliation can happen, that soldiers of his rank can tell the truth and will come forward and will provide some basis for reconciliation.”

Roux also compared Duch to Albert Speer, the German architect and minister of armaments and war production under Adolf Hitler, who avoided a death sentence at the Nuremberg trials by apologising for his crimes.

Roux seemed to take offence at challenges to the sincerity of his client’s emotional apologies. Civil Party lawyer Kong Pisey on Monday accused Duch of shedding “crocodile tears” before the Trial Chamber.

“Who is in a position to dispute and challenge the tears that have been wept by the accused?” Roux asked.

“We, the defence, meet with the accused person in his prison cell in private moments, where he is able to speak openly, where he is able to speak freely from the heart,” he said. “We see an accused person who tries to hide himself discreetly, and when he collapses in tears, there is no one other than his own lawyers who are able to witness the tears that he sheds on the graves of the children who died. That is what we bear witness to.”

Roux, who prefaced his remarks by saying that the Duch case would be the last of his 37-year career as a lawyer, showed the flair for high drama that he has exhibited throughout six months of evidentiary hearings.

After pleading with judges to “look Duch in the eye and see him for the fellow human that he is”, he proclaimed: “One last word. One final word.

Duch is dead. Today his name is Kaing Guek Eav. He is no longer the Duch of the revolution.”



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