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The former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, raised his hands to his face in a Buddhist sign of goodwill as judges rejected his appeal and increased his nineteen-year sentence to life imprisonment.
Duch, a born-again Christian, showed no emotion as judges at the United Nations-backed tribunal detailed crimes they said were ”undoubtedly among the worst recorded in human history”.
Eleven appeal judges at the tribunal set up to prosecute Khmer Rouge leaders found that Duch ”deserved the highest penalty available, to provide a fair and adequate response to the outrage these crimes invoked in victims”.
In overturning last year’s sentence, the tribunal referred to evidence that Duch commanded a ”factory of death” in Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge’s rule.
They said that Duch, a former maths teacher and prison chief, was ”responsible for the merciless termination of at least 12,272 people, including women and children.”
However, investigators say as many 15,000 people were tortured and sent to their deaths at the Tuol Sleng interrogation center, which Duch commanded for three years.
The tribunal heard evidence that Duch taught the guards to inflict systematic torture on their victims, including rape, water boarding and pulling out nails. Under his command, guards threw babies from second floors. Some victims were set alight while still alive after months of torture.
Wearing a cream jacket and a white shirt, Duch walked solemnly into the tribunal carrying what appeared to be a Bible.
Since being discovered working for a Christian organization in Cambodia in 1999, Duch has admitted his role in the killings but shown little remorse.
He surprised lawyers and judges when he appealed the nineteen-year sentence last year. Duch had claimed the tribunal did not have the authority to convict him as he was not ”most responsible” for the Khmer Rouge’s rule (the tribunal only has jurisdiction over the “most responsible” Khmer Rouge officers) and was merely following orders.
The judges ruled that the earlier tribunal hearing had erred in imposing a manifestly inadequate sentence.