No elections, no judiciary and summary executions were the way of life under the prison-state of Democratic Kampuchea, convicted S-21 prison chief Kaing Gueak Eav, alias Duch, testified yesterday.
Answering the prosecution’s questions about the structure of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, Duch said there was never any pretence of open elections or a judicial system under the Khmer Rouge rule.
“There was only one party that controlled absolutely everything in monopoly,” Duch said.
He recounted the meticulous documentation practices of the regime, from photographing all prisoners on entry to S-21 to maintaining lists of dates of tortures and interrogations.
“The list was to ensure that our work was precise and so that our superiors could question us in relation to our work,” Duch explained.
He said the mandate of S-21 was to extract confessions for the upper authority to make decisions about appropriate action. “Torture was inevitable at S-21 but … not the means of last resort.”
Lawyers for Brother No 2 Nuon Chea, who Duch has testified was his direct superior, objected to such a detailed examination of S-21, which is not part of the first trial segment in Case 002.
There was confusion in the court when it became apparent Duch had given conflicting statements about when Nuon Chea became his superior. Nuon Chea’s lawyers have called Duch a “hypocrite witness”.
Later, Duch testified that as there were no elections, the state presidium, of which defendant Khieu Samphan was president, was a largely symbolic institution.
Khieu Samphan has claimed his role as president was merely honourific and that he had no real power.
However, defence counsel for Nuon Chea said this could simply be Duch’s opinion rather than fact.
This catalysed a courtroom debate lasting nearly all afternoon about the proper procedure for questioning Duch.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at firstname.lastname@example.org