Convicted S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, is shaping up as a star witness in Case 002, the indictment read out against the three accused senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime indicated yesterday.
However, parties to the case fear that Duch’s continued detention in the same compound as Brother No 2 Nuon Chea, former head-of-state Khieu Samphan and ex-Foreign Affairs Minister Ieng Sary, could damage his testimony against the three.
“Our concern is that if he is detained in the same house as the three accused, and we are not sure he is entirely separate, we cannot be sure there is no pressure or interference,” civil party lead co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau-Fort said yesterday.
Civil party lawyers submitted an “urgent letter” to the Trial Chamber last week expressing their concern that Duch could be coerced or otherwise pressured by Nuon Chea prior to giving testimony against his former boss.
Yesterday, the court published additional comments from Nuon Chea’s defence team on the issue denying Nuon Chea “harboured any intent to pressure the witness” and expressed their fears that Nuon Chea’s life was in jeopardy.
“[Nuon Chea] fears threats against his life by the hypocrite witness,” Nuon Chea’s defence team’s comments read, referring to Duch.
Nuon Chea informed the Detention Facility of his concern about Duch’s possible ill intentions and requested the facility chief to lock his cell in order to protect him from a possible attempt on his life, the former ideologue’s lawyers said.
In the indictment read yesterday, Duch states that Nuon Chea was responsible for implementing decisions made by Pol Pot and that Nuon Chea was responsible for military and security affairs, including the notorious S-21 prison.
“The Chairman at S-21as [sic] not me, Duch, but he, Nuon Chea, was Chairman,” the indictment quotes Duch as recalling from a conversation with Nuon Chea after he allegedly became Duch’s direct supervisor.
Court officials confirmed Duch will testify in Case 002 next week, and prosecutors have requested he remain detained at the court until after his testimony.
Legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen declined to comment on the filings and said that following the final judgment in Case 001, issued on February 3, Duch had been physically separated from the other detainees and was “not allowed to interact with them”.
However, under the general detention rules at the tribunal, detainees are allowed to interact with each other under supervision of guards.
Kang Ritheary, Duch’s defence counsel, told the Post yesterday that his client should remain detained at the ECCC facility indefinitely.
“He is not under the jurisdiction of the local court, [and] he is an ideal prisoner,” Kang Ritheary said.
“Keeping him at the ECCC facility will warm his confidence to continue to cooperate with the court.
“I think if Duch is a witness in Case 002, then this will help clear him of the crimes, as it will reveal who are the leaders [responsible for deaths],” he added.