Former Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Guek Eav, known as “Duch”, died in prison on Wednesday at age 77. The Trial Chamber of The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) convicted Kaing in 2010 of multiple counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 35 years of imprisonment. On appeal, the Supreme Court Chamber overturned the sentence and sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2012.
The convictions included persecution, enslavement, imprisonment and torture as crimes against humanity, and willful killing, torture and inhumane treatment, willfully causing great suffering, willfully depriving a prisoner of war or civilian of the rights of fair and regular trial and unlawful confinement of a civilian as war crimes.
In 1975 an armed conflict erupted between the Democratic Kampuchea (now, Cambodia) and Vietnam. The communist Khmer Rouge regime ruled Cambodia under the leader Pol Pot. The regime killed 1.7 million Cambodians through execution and starvation. The conflict lasted until 1979 when Vietnam overthrew the regime.
The trial chamber convicted Kaing for his actions at Security Prison 21 (S21), a detention center used for interrogation, execution and reeducation of suspected opponents of the Khmer Rouge. Prison officials executed more than 12,000 detainees and tortured a majority of them. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a memorial in honor of the victims at S21.
Kaing’s cause of death has not been released.