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Duch enjoyed torture: witness

Khmer Rouge jailer took pleasure in dealing out pain, death, ECCC hears.

TUOL Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav was "happy like a madman" while torturing prisoners at a Khmer Rouge detention centre he ran during the early 1970s, a former guard told Cambodia's war crimes court Monday, as the trial of the regime's top interrogator continued into its third week.

Chan Voeun, who worked under Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - at the M-13 prison, testified that the maths teacher-turned-tormentor had once stripped the shirt off a female inmate and burned her breasts.

"He used a kerosene [rag] attached to a stick and lit it and then burned her.... I stood and watched it," he said, adding that the woman was hanging from a tree.

Chan Voeun also accused Duch of shooting and killing his uncle.

"I saw Duch shoot [my uncle] with my own eyes. I saw him holding the gun and shooting it," the 56-year-old said, wiping back tears as he spoke.

Duch, who maintains that he never personally killed any prisoners despite apologising for overseeing executions under the regime, said, however, that Chan Voeun was lying about the shooting incident.

"This is a complete fabrication based on what he has heard," Duch told judges when called upon to respond.

"There are a few things that are true, but in summary [Chan Voeun] was not a staff member at M-13 and he did not see anything with his own eyes," he added.

But Chan Voeun insisted that Duch not only killed and tortured prisoners, but that his mood often determined the fate of those detained at the centre.

"After the interrogations, he was always very happy.... When he spoke to the guards with a straight

face, then things were OK. But if he had a smile on his face, there were problems," Chan Voeun said, adding that M-13 was a place from which few people returned. "If Duch wanted someone dead, they had to die," he said.

Duch, continuing to deny the allegations, insisted that Chan Voeun "mixed fact and fiction into his testimony".

"As for the crimes that I committed ... I remember them. It's a serious matter that affects me psychologically," he said.

Asked outside the court whether he was concerned about Duch's comments, Chan Voeun told the Post that he "really did work at the M-13 security centre".

Although M-13, which Duch ran from 1971-75, falls outside the court's temporal jurisdiction, judges see it as importantant in understanding Duch's personality and the organisational structure at Tuol Sleng, or S-21, where the crimes for which Duch is being tried are suspected to have occurred.

But despite making headway, the UN-backed tribunal continues to be dogged by allegations that staff on the Cambodian side of the court were forced to kick back portions of their salaries to their bosses.

Talks between the UN and senior Cambodian officials to establish stronger anti-graft measures ended earlier this month without agreement, and a prominent rights watchdog has joined the chorus of critics, saying the allegations were "highly probable".  

"This issue of corruption, together with the widely reported sustained political interference, has very much undermined the dignity and reputation of the KRT," a statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission said Friday.

"Should institutional corruption be found to exist at the KRT - and this now seems highly probable - serious questions about the fairness of the trials would be raised," it added.

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