War crimes conviction :
Khmer Rouge jailer appeals
CAMBODIA: Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch
called for his release on Monday, arguing at an appeal that he was only
following orders when he oversaw the deaths of some 15,000 people.
Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was convicted at Cambodia's
UN-backed war crimes court in July of war crimes and crimes against
humanity for his role at the notorious torture prison Tuol Sleng in the
The first Khmer Rouge cadre to face an international tribunal, he was
sentenced to 30 years in prison, and both defence and prosecution are
appealing against the punishment in a three-day hearing at the court.
During his trial, the jailer repeatedly apologised for overseeing
mass murder at the detention centre - also known as S-21 - but shocked
the court by finally asking to be acquitted in November 2009.
Duch's Cambodian counsel Kar Savuth told the Supreme Court Chamber
that his client had only the "very lowest rank" in the communist party
and was simply following orders from above. "Duch was just a minor
secretary who had no real authority to make decisions or to do anything
contradictory to the direction or the order from the upper echelons," he
The "superior orders" defence was most notably used at the Nuremberg
trials after World War II, when it was ruled that it that it did not
absolve Nazi war criminals of responsibility for their actions.
The defence team argued that the tribunal had no right to try their
client because he was not one of the regime's senior leaders, nor one of
those most responsible for the crimes committed.
"Duch was just a tool used by those people and he should fall outside
the jurisdiction of the (court) for this reason," Savuth said. "If there
is any doubt (about jurisdiction) then the accused should be acquitted
and not found guilty." Duch himself only briefly addressed the court.
Wearing a white jacket and a powder-blue shirt, he said the main point
of his appeal was the court's jurisdiction to try him, rather than
questions of fact."So this is purely a legal matter. I give authority to
my legal representatives to act on my behalf," he said, before returning
to his seat.
Phnom Penh, Monday, AFP