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Duch challenged on recollection of dates

Tension between Nuon Chea’s defence team and Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, simmered for the second day in a row yesterday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal as the defence continued in its attempts to undermine the credibility of the former S-21 prison chief.

During his cross-examination of Duch, defence counsel Michiel Pestman raised doubts about Duch’s assertions that Brother No. 2 Nuon Chea became his immediate superior at S-21 after Duch’s previous boss, Son Sen, was transferred.  

During testimony in this case, Duch has repeatedly stated that the transfer of superiors occurred on August 15, 1977, but yesterday, Pestman produced multiple statements by Duch over the past 15 years that contradicted this, including testimony given in court two weeks ago, in which Duch said the transfer of power had occurred in August, 1978.

“Duch, two days ago, I asked you whether it’s possible that you got the date wrong [about the transfer of power]. I asked you specifically, ‘Do you ever get that date wrong?’ and you said, ‘I’m never mistaken, I’m absolutely sure about that date.’ Do you remember saying that?” Pestman asked.

“I still stand by my position that I’ve never been mistaken when it comes to that exact date, the 15th of August, 1977, when Nuon Chea was my superior,” Duch responded.

“Can you then explain . . .   why in 1999, you said [the date was] July, 1978; in 2002, you said it was the 15th of July, 1977; and here in court on the 20th of March, you said it was the 15th of August,

1978? How can you explain that you got the date wrong when you were absolutely sure?” Pestman asked.

Duch had little retort, aside from calling for the tape recording used in one of the interviews Pestman had cited.

Such inconsistencies, Pestman posited, indicated that “Son Sen remained Duch’s superior even after he departed, and at no time was Nuon Chea Duch’s superior”.

Pestman culminated his three-hour exchange with Duch by calling the former prison chief a “liar” with a “tendency to shift responsibility” for actions on to others.

“I put it to you that Nuon Chea was never in charge of S-21 or gave you any orders. Nuon Chea was simply the person you decided would take the blame and absolve you of responsibility,” he said.

“You cannot accept responsibility for your own actions and, in fact, you are a liar.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Lynch at kristin.lynch@phnompenhpost.com

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