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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Duch tells court he knew 'confessions' were untrue

Duch tells court he knew 'confessions' were untrue


As proceedings against him continue, the former S-21 chief has admitted that not all prisoners were suspects of the regime.

Photo by:
Tracey Shelton

A young Cambodian girl looks at  graphic photos of tortured victims at Tuol Sleng museum, over which Duch presided during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 reign.

FORMER S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav told judges at Cambodia's war crimes court Tuesday that he was always aware that the confessions he extracted from so-called enemies of the regime were rarely true.

"The confessions we got from the prisoners, I never believed them. Only 40 percent were true and only 20 percent of persons accused were the right suspects," the former cadre, known as Duch,  said.

Detailing to the court the torture methods that were used to get these confessions, he also admitted that many of them were invented by him, including those used at S-21.

"Some methods of torture had been created by me. S-21 got experience from me."

The comments were part of preliminary questioning into Duch's role in the regime leading up to his position at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison centre.

Though the court's jurisdiction is to only prosecute crimes between 1975-79, judges believe information, particularly about his role as commandant of a previous secret prison known as M-13, could shed light on his personality and rank in the regime.

The confessions that we got from the prisoners; i never believed them.

At the sixth day of proceedings against him, Duch continued to show an inclination to name names and spread culpability upwards to members of the regime's Central Committee.

"All powers to arrest or execute the prisoners came, generally, from the members' ‘full right' of the Central Committee of the Party. When they ordered people to be arrested, it meant to smash them, too," he said.

"When I finished my interrogation, I presented the confessions to my superiors and asked them whether they were satisfied. It was a protocol question," he added.

Duch also told judges how he had spared the life of French anthropologist Francois Bizot by convincing his higher-ups to release him.

Straying from the judge's questions, Duch brought up Tuol Sleng several times in proceedings, in one instance turning to S-21 survivor and civil party, Chum Mey, and telling him it was not him who tortured him, but "Mr Seng".

Chum Mey nodded his head, but judges told Duch to focus on M-13 rather than S-21.

"The line he's been trying to take from the very beginning [is] that he was just taking orders," said anthropologist Alex Hinton. "Now, he's trying to say that when he had confessions, his goal was to get the person off. Well, I find that really hard to believe."

Meanwhile, talks between a top UN legal official and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An over corruption at the court are ongoing and, at time of press, looked set to continue Wednesday. 



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