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Civil parties dispute prison chief’s claims

Final submissions in Duch case are due today

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal’s first defendant has deliberately downplayed his role in creating “a vicious cycle of arrests, confessions and certain death” at the prison he commanded, a group of civil party lawyers has argued in a filing to be submitted this week.

The 53-page final submission from Civil Parties Group 1 asserts that Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, was granted the freedom to expand upon torture techniques used at other security centres to extract confessions from supposed traitors.

Duch has maintained throughout his trial that he was following instructions from superiors who would have ordered his execution had he disobeyed, a claim the lawyers dismissed as disingenuous.

“Not only did Duch reign over S-21 with an iron fist, he did so while constantly innovating and improving in order to make S-21 the most efficient system he could through the exercise of his autonomy,” the final submission reads.

The civil party lawyers also accuse Duch of having “fuelled the paranoia” of Khmer Rouge leaders in his efforts to identify networks of traitors, adding that these efforts led to “massive subsequent arrests” and executions. They describe him as “a fanatical believer in the revolution” who “worked like a maniac on annotating the confessions” and “considered the prisoners to be animals”.

“Despite Duch’s extensive effort to downplay his role in the practice of torture at S-21, the evidence unambiguously demonstrates that Duch went to great lengths to establish a system that was designed to inflict the maximum degree of suffering on the prisoners,” the lawyers state.

The filing includes descriptions of how the lawyers’ 37 clients claim to have been affected by the crimes with which Duch is charged. All but one of them are relatives of prisoners who were executed at Tuol Sleng.

The list of afflictions includes insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, “debilitating anguish” and “persistent stomach pain”. In the case of Neth Phally, whose brother died at Tuol Sleng, the lawyers write: “On one occasion, his grief so overwhelmed him that he was unable to avoid a falling tree branch and lost his left arm as a result.”

The Trial Chamber in August allowed the defence team to lay out challenges to 24 civil party applications, a move the filing describes as inappropriate in light of the fact that the applications were initially approved in February.

“This Trial Chamber should approach these proceedings with the presumption, not easily rebutted, that Civil Party status should not be stripped from victims at the conclusion of the proceedings absent compelling new evidence,” it states.

Judges will rule on the challenges when they hand down a verdict, which is expected early next year, UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said Tuesday.

Final submissions from all parties in the Duch case are due today. The prosecution and defence teams declined to provide drafts of their submissions in advance of closing arguments, which are scheduled to begin on November 23, as did lawyers for Civil Parties Groups 2 and 4.

Lawyers for Civil Parties Group 3 could not be reached Tuesday.



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