Former Khmer Rouge prison commander dies

03 Septembre, 2020, 03:54 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Kaing Guek Eav better known as Duch stands in a courtroom during a pre-trial in Phnom Penh in 2008

Khmer Rouge commander Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, speaks to his attorneys moments before the start of his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on February 17, 2009.

The former political prison chief of Cambodia's Pol Pot regime in the 1970s has died.

A lot of them were tortured, forced to confess to alleged crimes against the Khmer Rouge and then put to death at the so-called killing fields just outside the capital Phnom Penh.

The guards sought confessions to non-existent crimes and were instructed to "smash to bits" traitors and counter-revolutionaries. For the Khmer Rouge, that could mean anyone from school teachers to children, to pregnant women and "intellectuals" identified simply because they wore glasses.

Beneath Tuol Sleng's chaotic facade, Duch-himself a former maths teacher-had an obsessive eye for detail and kept his school-turned-jail meticulously organised.

In 2012, a special tribunal sentenced him to life in prison for taking the lives of more than 12,000 people through executions and torture.


During his trial, Duch admitted he was in charge of S-21 and apologised for his part in the horrors committed there. Paramount leader Pol Pot died in a Khmer Rouge jungle hideout in 1998. "His control was total", wrote photographer and author Nic Dunlop, who found Duch in 1999 hiding near the Thai border, two decades after the Khmer Rouge fell.

"Not until you walk through the empty corridors of Tuol Sleng does Stalin's idiom that one death is a tragedy - a million a statistic, take on a terrifying potency", Mr Dunlop wrote in his account of Duch and his atrocities, The Lost Executioner.

He ran the S-21 prison, also known as Tuol Sleng.

Neth Pheaktra, the spokesperson for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) who announced his death, said Duch is the first person to be convicted by the ECCC of crimes against humanity and Grave breaches of the Geneva Convention 1949.

"He was cooperative, he spoke to the court frankly".

The work of the tribunal -a hybrid court of worldwide and Cambodian judges - was tainted by its limited scope, the age of its defendants and accusations of political meddling.

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