Cambodian war criminal appeals

04:29, Mar 28 2011

The man who admitted to overseeing the killing of 16,000 people - including a New Zealand yachtsman - as the Khmer Rouge's chief prison warden has returned to a courtroom in Cambodia to appeal his 19-year prison sentence.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, was convicted last year of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is the only person so far to be tried by a UN-backed tribunal set up to prosecute Khmer Rouge officials. An estimated 1.7 million people were killed under the regime's 1975 to 1979 reign.

Defence lawyers say the tribunal has no jurisdiction over Duch, since the court was set up to prosecute top leaders of the Khmer Rouge. They argue that claim he was not the most responsible senior official. 

Appeal proceedings started today and are expected to finish later this week, with the prosecution seeking an extended sentence, to 45 years.

New Zealander Rob Hamill, whose brother Kerry was tortured and killed at the Phnom Penh prison in 1978, has returned to Cambodia to seek an interview with Duch once legal arguments have finished.

The New Zealander wants to know where his brother is buried.

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A continuing desire for a face-to-face meeting with the man responsible for the killing of his brother will send Rob Hamill back to Cambodia today to attend an appeal hearing for a Khmer Rouge war criminal.

Mr Hamill, of Te Pahu in the Waikato, is editing a documentary, Brother Number One, about his search for justice for Kerry's death.

Emails to Duch's defence team have brought replies but Mr Hamill plans to speak with Duch's representatives again while in Phnom Penh.

"There's more to it than him just agreeing to meet."

Mr Hamill said Duch had an opportunity to "walk away" from S-21 or stop what was happening at the infamous torture camp. "He could've got out of there and helped people... but he didn't."

AP