02/03/2012, 00.00
CAMBODIA
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Khmer Rouge Tribunal: Appeals court gives life term to Comrade Duch

At first instance the Director of the S-21 prison, where tens of thousands of Cambodians died, had been sentenced to 30 years. For judges crimes committed "worst in human history." He is the only one who has admitted his guilt. Hundreds of survivors of the regime have heard the reading of the verdict.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) - The United Nations tribunal for war crimes in Cambodia today rejected the appeal filed by lawyers for Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Comrade Duch - commuting the sentence of 30 years imprisonment to life. Reading the verdict Kong Srim, President of the Court, emphasized that the crimes committed “were undoubtedly among the worst in recorded human history". This is why the former commander of the notorious S-21, Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, deserves "the highest possible penalty." Hundreds of Cambodians - many of them survivors of the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge - attended the final verdict of the proceedings.

69 year old Comrade Duch, the only one who has admitted his sins and sought forgiveness, after a long journey that has also led him to convert to Christianity, was arrested and sentenced in 2010 to 30 years. Between 15 thousand and 17 thousand people died in the S-21, from hunger, starvation, torture or summary executions. He has appealed the ruling, claiming he was "only" a junior officer, forced to follow orders given by the Khmer Rouge leaders for "fear of being killed." But judges rejected his claim and increased his sentence from 35 years to life.

At the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime Jan. 7, 1979, with the invasion of Phnom Penh by Vietnamese troops, only seven people managed to escape from prison, emerge unscathed and then tell the tragedies suffered in prison. Among these was the famous artist Van Nath, who managed to save himself by painting portraits of Pol Pot, Comrade Duch and other leaders of the Maoist movement. His famous works have also documented a dramatic glimpse of life in cells and the daily torture of men, women, children and babies mercilessly. slaughtered He died September 5, 2011 at the age of 66 (see AsiaNews, 09/07/2011 Phnom Penh: Vann Nath, who painted Khmer Rouge atrocities, dies).

Cambodia still bears the wounds of the rule of the murderous Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, who ruled the country from 1975 to 1979, bringing death and destruction. In a few years the regime h eliminated - by starvation or in the infamous Killing Fields, death camps on the outskirts of Phnom Penh - nearly two million people (about one quarter of the population). Many of the victims were intellectuals, doctors, teachers and representatives of the cultural elite. A second trial against three other Khmer Rouge leaders is still underway: Nuon Chea, known by the nickname of "Brother Number Two", Khieu Samphan, former head of state of Democratic Kampuchea, Ieng Sary, former foreign minister of the regime.

However, critics point out that the UN Tribunal, criticized for corruption and inefficiency is only targeting - in part - the symbols of the regime but not guaranteeing real justice to the Cambodian people. Pol Pot died in 1998 due to illness and was never subjected to trial or prosecution for atrocities committed under his command. In addition, many lower ranking officials and members of the Maoist movement executive are still free and in many cases have important roles of government.

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