In Cambodia, the director of the infamous torture prison under the Khmer Rouge regime died. Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, died at the age of 77 in a hospital in the capital Phnom Penh.
He served a life sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity, after confessing that under his supervision at least 16,000 Cambodians were murdered and tortured in the 1970s.
Duch’s death was reported by the tribunal dealing with crimes under the Khmer Rouge. The regime, which was in power between 1975 and 1979, is responsible for an estimated 1.7 million deaths.
In 2009, Duch confessed guilt before the tribunal. In 2012 he was finally convicted after an appeal. He was one of the few Khmer Rouge members who (partly) confessed his crimes, even though there was a lot of anger among relatives about how Duch behaved in court. Among other things, he refused to confess that he himself also tortured prisoners.
Duch was a math teacher before joining the movement of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot. His prison, which was located in an old school, was officially called S-21 and was used by the dictator’s regime in 1975 to put political opponents away.
Only a few survived the stay in the prison. Duch said in his confession in 2009 that a prison sentence in S-21 was actually a death sentence. His guards used gruesome methods. For example, prisoners were tortured with electric shocks or starved to death.
According to the judges at the tribunal, Duch personally gave permission for each execution and was also regularly present at torture. Furthermore, under his rule, children of prisoners were murdered so that they could not take revenge later on.
Duch was arrested in 1999, after living in hiding in northwestern Cambodia for almost two decades.
“His crimes are undoubtedly among the worst in recorded human history,” said Cambodia’s tribunal president Kong Srim at the time of Duch’s conviction. According to him, only the highest possible sentence was appropriate. Duch heard the verdict without emotion.