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Cambodia genocide prosecutors to appeal ex-Khmer Rouge leader sentence

Co-prosecutors for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] on Monday filed a notice of an appeal [text, PDF; press release] of the judgment against former Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder] official Kaing Guek Eav [case materials; JURIST news archive]. Last month, the trial chamber of the ECCC convicted Kaing [JURIST report], also known as "Duch," of crimes against humanity and of violating the 1949 Geneva Conventions, sentencing him to 35 years in prison. Kaing's sentence was reduced to 19 years after the court considered time served as well as other factors. The prosecution, seeking to increase Kaing's term of imprisonment, identified three grounds for appeal, including a discernible error in the exercise of sentencing discretion, an error of law regarding cumulative convictions and an error of law regarding enslavement. They contend that the trial chamber gave insufficient weight to the gravity of Kaing's crimes and undue weight to mitigating circumstances. The prosecution called Kaing's sentence "arbitrary" and "manifestly inadequate." They also argue that the judgment should be invalidated for failure to convict Kaing cumulatively for the distinct crimes of rape and torture and for employing a definition of enslavement requiring forced labor as an element of the crime. Kaing has also indicated that he plans to appeal his conviction, and he has hired new counsel [JURIST report] to handle the appeals process.

Kaing unexpectedly asked to be released [JURIST report] at the close of his trial in November. His request was a complete departure from his previous conduct, as he had cooperated with the trial and repeatedly apologized to his victims and their families, mitigating conduct that earned him a reduced sentence from the 40 years prosecutors originally sought. His lawyers took different approaches in their closing remarks, with one stating that his client was not guilty and the other asking for clemency. In March 2009, Kaing accepted responsibility and apologized [JURIST report] for his conduct at the detention facility. He is the first of eight ex-Khmer Rouge officials expected to be tried before the ECCC. In April, the pre-trial chamber of the ECCC dismissed appeals by three other former Khmer Rouge officials [JURIST report] to block the extension of their provision detention. The three prisoners, Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan, were arrested in November 2007 and face charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, murder, torture and religious persecution.

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