The Khmer Rouge Tribunal plans to stage a re-enactment at the Killing
Fields where survivors of the notorious S-21 torture prison and ex
prison chief Duch will take the tribunal judges for a walk-through of
the crimes committed three decades earlier.
The re-enactment scheduled for late February is part of the tribunal
judges’ efforts to gather evidence in the case against 62-year-old
Kaing Khek Iev, or Duch, who is charged with crimes against humanity
for his role as chief of the Tuol Sleng prison.
Duch will walk the tribunal’s co investigating judges through the
prison and then proceed to the Killing Fields at Choeung Eck, 22 miles
outside the capital.
Several key witnesses – believed to be survivors of Tuol Sleng – will
be present and the entire reconstruction will be video-taped by the
Co Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde told the Post on February 20 that
the aim of the re-enactment was “to clarify the declarations by each of
the participants using photos, audio-visual recordings and 3D
The re-enactment itself will be followed by a “confrontation” interview
back at the court, which will allow a written record to be made of
everything said by Duch and the witnesses.
“The written records relating to the re-enactment and the confrontation
will then be placed on the case file and may be referred to during the
proceedings before the Trial Chamber,” Lemonde said.
The court released a statement confirming that as part of the ongoing
work of the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, “on-site
investigations are being held on Tuesday 26 February 2008 at Choeung Ek
and on Wednesday 27 February at Tuol Sleng.”
Duch’s lawyers, Kar Savuth and French attorney Francois Roux, will be present at the re-enactment.
The two sites and their surrounding areas will be closed to the public,
including the news media, while they are being used by the court.
The statement said that re-enactments – or “on-site investigation” – are a normal part of judicial investigation. Such proceedings are confidential.
“Appropriate and strict security measures will be in place,” the statement said, adding that the court regretted any inconvenience caused but was “confident that everyone will facilitate the work of the ECCC.”
Duch has already proved willing to talk. In an interview with the Far Eastern Economic Review after his 1999 arrest, he fingered fellow KRT detainees Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, and Ta Mok, who died in 2006, and Son Sen, who was executed in 1997, as being responsible for the mass killings of the Khmer Rouge era.
In his post Khmer Rouge days Duch converted to Christianity and lived anonymously until his chance discovery by photojournalist Nic Dunlop led to his arrest. In the days after he was arrested, Duch said he had participated in activities at Toul Sleng but that he was sorry for the killings and was ready to face an international tribunal and provide evidence.
Re-enactments in which the accused is taken back to the scene of the crime are “standard procedure” under a civil law investigation system, said Helen Jarvis, head of the ECCC press office.
She confirmed that the event will be filmed and could be introduced into the court as evidence.
“This is the difference of a civil law system. Much of the evidence is compiled and tested during the investigation stage. It is not introduced into the court piece by piece and tested there,” she said.
Jarvis said it had not yet been determined whether Duch and the witnesses involved would walk the judges through the crime scenes together or separately. That decision is “up to the judges,” she said.
On the day after the reenactment a “confrontation” interview at the court will take place giving witnesses a chance to confront the man who headed the prison in which an estimated 14,000 people were tortured before being killed.
“The two views – of the accused and the witnesses – will be heard together,” Jarvis said.
“They don’t confront each other as such. Everything is heard through the judges, but the witnesses and the charged person will make statements in front of one another and can respond through the judges.”
The judges’ right to conduct such re-enactments is enshrined in the court’s internal rules. Rule 55.5a states that “in the conduct of judicial investigations the Co Investigating judges may take any investigative action conducive to ascertaining the truth. In all cases they shall conduct their investigation impartially whether the evidence is inculpatory or exculpatory. To that end the Co Investigating Judges may … conduct on site investigations.”
The video tape of the reenactment may in the future become available for public viewing, said Jarvis.
“All public records will be retained for public access and all internal records will be retained, but what level of access will be granted has not been decided,” she said.
“For example, there could be a time restriction that confidential documents will be released five or ten years after the event.”