Vorn Vet’s preferred method of torture was to suffocate traitors with a plastic bag, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.
Duch, the first criminal to be convicted by the tribunal, yesterday testified in the court’s landmark Case 002 against senior leaders Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan.
Duch yesterday began his testimony by describing his time as prison chief of the lesser-known “Office 13”, where his superior, Vorn Vet, instructed him on torture techniques including beatings, electrocution with telephone wires and water-boarding.
“He told me, ‘Comrade, look at their neck to see if it is shaking or vibrating’; if it was vibrating very strongly they would be considered as spies,” Duch said of his superior, who was later tortured under Duch’s watch as prison chief of S-21 and executed at the Choueng Ek killing fields.
Duch then described this policy of execution or “smashing”, as the regime called it.
“To smash means to execute – the two are interchangeable – the ultimate goal was to make the person dead,” he said.
Duch, who prosecutors describe as having a “near photographic memory”, is a key witness in the case against the three elderly defandants.
Trial Chamber judges in Case 001 found that “Brother Number 2” Nuon Chea, currently on trial, was Duch’s supervisor.
Duch was sentenced to life in prison by the tribunal on appeal in February for crimes against humanity and war crimes and was found responsible for the deaths of more than 12,000 men, women and children at the notorious S-21 torture and interrogation facility.
Duch, who was famously candid and co-operative when giving testimony in Case 001, will be questioned this week about the role of the accused in the regime that killed a quarter of Cambodia’s population.
Clair Duffy, of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said such candidness and co-operation in Case 002 may have an impact on Duch’s parole hearing, which is due in less than eight years.
“I think there’s no question that Duch is quite uniquely placed as a witness in terms of his knowledge of the inner workings of the Khmer Rouge regime,” Duffy said yesterday.
“He may be one of very few survivors of the regime with this kind of inside knowledge.”
Duch, who was due to begin testifying today, was called to the courtroom early after Nuon Chea, the regime’s chief ideologue, announced he would exercise his right to remain silent.
Judges had anticipated questioning Nuon Chea on administrative structures of the regime and his roles and responsibilities, but he reiterated a request repeatedly made by his defence lawyers that the court consider the effect of US bombs dropped on Cambodia from 1965 to 1973 and the death and destruction caused.
When judges did not specifically rule in favour of Nuon Chea’s request, he elected to remain silent.
Duch’s testimony will continue today.
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