Khmer Rouge Sentence Not Enough for Cambodians

Khmer Rouge survivors watch the courtroom proceedings as the verdict is being announced at a screening outside the courthouse July 26, 2010 in Phnom Penh province. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images).

The trial and sentencing of Khmer Rouge prison chief was 30 years overdue. Still, the result left spectators enraged and saddened by the lack of severity. Kang Kek Ieu, better known as Comrade Duch, is the first Khmer Rouge official to be held accountable for his crimes against humanity by a U.N. backed tribunal.

Duch, 67, who admitted responsibility for the torture and killing of over 14,000 Cambodians, received a sentence of 35 years in prison. Subtract 16 years for time already served in prison combined with his expression of regret (however slight) and Duch was served a reduced sentence of 19 years. Duch was eligible to receive life in prison-most likely the only outcome that could have pleased the Cambodian public.

The trial marks the first time in Cambodia's history that an official has been held accountable for human rights violations. In this way, the trial is a long-awaited step in the right direction since the 1975 Cambodian genocide that brutally tortured and killed an estimated 1.7 million people. However, victims and their families are saying that it isn't enough.

"People lost their relatives - their wives, their husbands, their sons and daughters - and they won't be able to spend any time with any of them because they are dead now," said Nina You, in an interview with the New York Times. "So why should he be able to get out in 19 years and spend time with his grandchildren?"