A U.N.-backed tribunal's Supreme Court lengthened the sentence for the Khmer Rouge's chief jailer to life imprisonment on Friday because of his "shocking and heinous" crimes against the Cambodian people.
The surprise ruling increased a lower court's 19-year sentence for Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch. Prosecutors had appealed the sentence as too lenient, and outraged survivors had feared the man who oversaw the torture and killing of thousands could one day walk free.
The latter possibility was actually quite remote, given that "Duch" is 69 years old and highly unlikely to survive 19 years in prison. Even so, I suppose the sentence increase is useful as a symbol.
The sentence remains inadequate, though. Due to the U.N.'s involvement, the tribunal is incapable of imposing the death penalty, the only punishment that comes close to sufficient for this man's unspeakable crimes.
The world's worst criminals can be adequately punished, as Saddam Hussein was, only when the Europeans, the U.N., and the International Criminal Court are kept out of the decision. That is regrettable, but that is the way it is.