PHNOM PENH, Mar 29 – Prosecutors at Cambodia\’s UN-backed war crimes court on Tuesday appealed for a life term for former Khmer Rouge cadre Duch, saying he lacked remorse for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.
Duch, 68, was sentenced to 30 years in prison last July for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role at the notorious torture prison Tuol Sleng in the late 1970s.
The prison chief, real name Kaing Guek Eav, was the first former Khmer Rouge cadre to face an international tribunal and both the defence and prosecution are appealing against the punishment in three days of hearings at the court.
During his trial, Duch repeatedly apologised for overseeing mass murder at the detention centre — also known as S-21 — but shocked the court by asking to be acquitted in his closing statement in November 2009.
Co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley said on Tuesday that this U-turn showed Duch "to this day lacks real, sincere remorse for what happened".
The defence team claimed in their appeal on Monday that Duch should never have gone on trial because he falls outside the court\’s mandate to prosecute the regime\’s senior leaders and those most responsible for crimes committed.
They argued that their client was "just a minor secretary" following orders and he should therefore be released.
Cayley said this claim was "inconsistent" with Duch\’s earlier admission of responsibility for "grave crimes" committed at S-21.
"The accused\’s belated challenge to the legal basis for his prosecution and his request for release highlights, in my submission, the insincere, selective, and opportunistic nature of his cooperation with this court," Cayley said.
He argued that the original sentence was "manifestly inadequate" and placed undue weight on mitigating factors.
"We call for the imposition of a life term, reduced to 45 years" to take into account the period Duch served in unlawful detention, Cayley told the Supreme Court Chamber.
Prosecutors also said they want enslavement, imprisonment, torture, extermination, rape and other inhumane acts to be added to Duch\’s list of convictions.
Appearing in the courtroom for a second day, again wearing a white jacket over a powder-blue shirt, Duch appeared to listen attentively to the arguments and did not address the court.
At his trial, Duch was originally given a 35-year jail sentence but this was reduced for the period of unlawful detention.
Given time already served, Duch could walk free in less than 19 years, much to the dismay of many victims of the brutal 1975-1979 regime.
A ruling on the appeals is expected in late June.
Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia\’s population through starvation, overwork and execution.
S-21, in Phnom Penh, was at the centre of the regime\’s security apparatus and thousands of inmates were taken from there for execution in a nearby orchard.
Duch has been detained since 1999, when he was found working as a Christian aid worker in the jungle. He was formally arrested by the tribunal in July 2007.
Four more of the regime\’s former members — including "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea — are due to go on trial later this year and Duch is expected to appear as a witness in the case.