During five hours of heated cross-examination at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, Nuon Chea’s defence lawyer Michiel Pestman whittled away at the credibility of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, attacking the veracity of the former S-21 prison chief’s testimony.
Over the past two weeks, Duch has identified Brother No 2 Nuon Chea as the key “decision-maker” in Democratic Kampuchea, the leader who received all S-21 prisoner confessions after 1977 and decided who was to be “smashed”, but Pestman yesterday attacked Duch’s testimony regarding this chain of command.
In several instances, Pestman produced S-21 prisoner confessions that had been annotated by Son Sen, not Nuon Chea, at the end of 1977. Duch has testified that Nuon Chea replaced Son Sen as his superior after August 15, 1977, and from then on, all prisoner confessions were forwarded directly to Nuon Chea.
“This document seems to suggest, like the other documents I showed you, that the [S-21 prisoner] confessions . . . went from you to Son Sen and from Son Sen to Pol Pot. Wouldn’t you agree?” Pestman asked Duch.
“I can neither agree nor deny the observation made by counsel,” Duch responded.
Pestman also produced an annotation to an S-21 confession that Duch testified last week was written by Nuon Chea. However, Pestman said that when Duch was shown this document by the investigating judges in Case 001 in 2007, Duch had identified the annotation as coming from Son Sen.
When asked to explain the discrepancy, Duch said he was “confused” and “mistaken” in his 2007 testimony before the investigating judges. Pestman argued that Duch simply assumed it was Nuon Chea since the document was dated 1978.
“Did you change your statement when you realised the date of the document was in February 1978 and that you therefore assumed that it had to be [annotated by] Nuon Chea instead of Son Sen?” Pestman asked.
“When I made the correction, I didn’t base it on the date of issuance. I based it on the [hand]writing,” Duch responded, to which Pestman attacked Duch’s lack of formal handwriting recognition expertise.
In a similar situation involving the annotation to a prisoner confession made in October 1977, Duch similarly reneged on testimony he previously gave to investigating judges.
“I think I made a mistake on this. I said it was written by Son Sen . . . however, having looked at this annotation again I think it could’ve been written by Brother Nuon so I am mixed up myself,” Duch said.
At one point, Duch admitted to speculating about the author of annotations made to S-21 confessions. “I am [speculating]. Before the co-investigating judges I speculated and here I am doing this again,” he said.