The Supreme Court Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal “endeavours” to rule “later this year” on appeals against the court’s judgment in its first case, which convicted S-21 jailer Duch for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
Kaing Guek Eev, alias Duch, was sentenced in July last year to 35 years in prison – commuted to 30 years for illegal pre-trial detention – for his role in the torture and execution of at least 12,272 people at Tuol Sleng. With credit for time served, the full jail term stood at just 19 years. All parties in the case appealed.
Duch had maintained a disciplined defence strategy throughout the majority of the trial in which he admitted qualified responsibility and offered his co-operation. But, in an extraordinary reversal, the notorious S-21 chief demanded his acquittal in closing arguments.
Duch argued in his appeal that he did not fall within court’s jurisdiction, which is limited to “senior leaders” and those “most responsible” for crimes under Democratic Kampuchea.
Duch’s attorney said in March appeal hearings that even Duch was deemed “most responsible”, his sentence should be reduced to a mere 15 years.
Such a ruling would allow for his release immediately or within three years due to time served and illegal pre-trial detention.
Prosecutors also appealed against Duch’s sentence – calling it “manifestly unjust” – and demanded a life sentence to be commuted to 45 years in prison for the pre-trial detention. Civil parties appealed against rulings on reparations and civil-party applicants. The Supreme Court Chamber has to rule only on two major legal questions: Duch’s assertion that he is outside the court’s jurisdiction and, if they reject that claim, his sentence.
Victims have complained about the length of time the chamber has taken to deliberate on its decision.