After several days of uncertainty over whether or not former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, would be eligible for parole while serving the remaining 19 years of a 35-year sentence imposed on Monday, prosecutors at the Khmer Rouge tribunal insisted yesterday that this cannot happen.
“Duch is not entitled to parole,” Deputy Co-Prosecutor William Smith wrote in a statement. “It is the co-prosecutors’ position that, unlike for accused convicted for less serious offenses in national courts, the ECCC agreement, law and rules exclude the possibility of parole for a convicted accused. The ECCC has retained full discretion over all aspects of sentencing.”
Under Cambodian law, prisoners can become eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence. Duch and any other Khmer Rouge figures convicted by the tribunal will serve out their sentences in Cambodian prisons.
Court legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen said on Monday that decisions on parole were “a matter for Cambodian domestic law” and would not be made by the tribunal. Reached yesterday, he referred all questions on the issue to prosecutors, who are responsible for enforcing sentences.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said any decisions on Duch’s prison sentence were out of the government’s hands.
“I have no idea. It depends on the Khmer Rouge tribunal to decide,” he said. “Even when the Khmer Rouge tribunal goes away but the decision of the court is still valid.”
Meng Koung, deputy director of the Justice Ministry’s penal affairs department, said he was unsure about the government’s official stance on Duch’s parole.
“This case is involving genocide and crimes against humanity, so for my personal idea, this law cannot be applied to the Duch case because Duch is a special case,” he added.
Anne Heindel, a legal adviser to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said yesterday she was skeptical of the court’s ability to enforce any dictate on parole, pointing out that the ECCC will dissolve after it has completed its mandate in around five years.
“I don’t understand how it can be under the jurisdiction of the prosecutors’ office, because in 12 years the ECCC will not exist,” she said, adding: “I’d imagine that whoever Duch’s lawyer is in 12 years will argue before a Cambodian court that [parole] should apply.”
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)