Detained by Cambodian authorities since 1999; Charged with crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions; provisionally detained by the Extraordinary Chambers (ECCC) on 31 July 2007; sentenced to 35 years in prison on 26 July 2010; prosecution, defence and civil parties appealed; sentenced to life imprisonment on 3 February 2012 by the ECCC Supreme Court Chamber.
Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was born around 1942 in the Kampong Thom province. He taught mathematics and was drawn toward Communism by a group of Chinese exchange students at the University of Phnom Penh.
Arrested by Prince Sihanouk's police as a "Communist", he was held without trial for several months. Soon after Sihanouk was overthrown, Duch went into the maquis. In the early 1970s, Duch was in charge of security for the Communist Party north of Phnom Penh. The earliest documents connecting Duch with S-21, also called Tuol Sleng – the interrogation and torture centre of the Khmer rouge regime – date from October 1975. S-21 was unique in the network of security centres given its direct link to the Central Committee and its role in the detention and execution of cadres of the Communist Party of Kampuchea –Cambodia-.
As the man in charge of S-21, Duch is alleged to have overseen the interrogation and torture of suspected traitors. At least 15,000 people were brought to Tuol Sleng, a former high school, where they were chained to beds, tortured into making false confessions, and executed in a nearby field. His name is on many execution documents, including one ordering the deaths of 17 children whose parents were accused of being spies. Only a handful survived, probably less than ten.
Duch lived close to S-21 with his family and he remained at the prison until the evening of 7 January 1979 when he walked out of Phnom Penh and soon disappeared from sight. In 1996, Duch met some American evangelical missionaries and converted to Christianity. In April 1999, a journalist discovered his past identity. Duch was later interviewed by journalists and spoke freely about his past.
Duch has been detained in a Cambodian military prison since May 1999 when he was arrested by Cambodian Police after a military court had charged him with murder, torture and membership of an outlawed group.