Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Duch's defence says he is scapegoat in Khmer Rouge trial 00000401943248, others available (Roundup)

Asia-Pacific News
Nov 25, 2009,

Phnom Penh - The defence in Cambodia's war crimes tribunal on Wednesday said their client, Comrade Duch, has been made a scapegoat for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.

Kar Savuth, Duch's Cambodian defence lawyer, said his client was neither 'a senior leader' of the Khmer Rouge nor someone who could be considered to be 'most responsible' for the crimes of the regime. The two categories of the tribunal's mandate define those who are to be prosecuted.

'It is only that Duch himself, who killed very few people, is being made a scapegoat,' Kar Savuth said. 'Is this justice?'

The defence's statements form part of its 7-hour closing argument in the tribunal. The joint UN-Cambodian court is trying the former commander of the Khmer Rouge's most notorious prison known as S-21, for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Earlier the prosecution called on the tribunal to hand down a 40-year sentence to Duch, who ran S-21, where more than 15,000 people are thought to have been tortured and murdered between 1975-79.

The international co-prosecutor William Smith said Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was the Khmer Rouge regime's 'loyal and dedicated agent.'

The prosecution acknowledged Duch had shown some cooperation and taken limited responsibility for the crimes committed at S-21, and also agreed that he is entitled to a reduction in sentence for the years he spent in pre-trial detention.

However, Smith said the loss and suffering of the victims and their families must be foremost in the judges' minds when considering their sentence.

The prosecution said a proposed 45-year sentence ought to be reduced by five years. Duch is 67, so the prosecution's jail demand would effectively translate to life in prison.

'The whole of humanity demands a just and proportionate response to the crimes [committed at S-21],' Smith said, adding that the court must remember that the lives and dreams of thousands murdered at S-21 had been stolen by Duch.

Sentencing in Duch's trial is due to take place early next year. There is no death penalty in Cambodia, and he faces a maximum punishment of life in prison.

Duch, who appeared in court in a lilac Ralph Lauren shirt and beige trousers, also addressed the court Wednesday.

In his address that at times rambled and was packed with dates, facts and names, Duch repeated that he was a mere cog in a killing machine, and was fearful for his own life.

'I am deeply remorseful and profoundly affected by such destruction on such a mind-boggling scale,' Duch told the court, again apologising for his role in the Khmer Rouge's mass killings of its own people.

'I most respectfully and humbly wish to apologise to the souls of the dead,' he said.

On Tuesday, the national co-prosecutor Chea Leang told the court that far from being the mere functionary he had tried to portray himself as, Duch was in fact the key intelligence operative for the Khmer Rouge as they sought out real and imaginary enemies of the revolution.

'He was the [Khmer Rouge's] trusted man to identify supposed plots against the revolution and to root out enemies,' Chea Leang said.

Witnesses at the trial this year have told how some prisoners at S-21 had their blood entirely drained, while others suffered simulated drowning, electrocution and beatings. Very few prisoners sent to S-21 survived.

On Monday, lawyers for the civil parties, a collection of 90 people who are predominantly relatives of prisoners who were murdered at S-21, presented their closing arguments.

Duch has testified during the 72-day trial that he was simply following orders and had almost no power to help detainees sent to S-21.

Four senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in jail and awaiting trial.

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 before being forced out of power by neighbouring Vietnam. Around 2 million people died of starvation and disease or were executed under the radical regime.

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