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'Leave the door open for forgiveness'

'Leave the door open for forgiveness'

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090401_03.jpg

The following is a partial transcript of Duch's apology in court on Tuesday:

Photo by:
AFP

Former S-21 head Duch in the dock at the Extraordinary Chambers on Monday.  

"I would like to begin by saying that between April 17, 1975, and January 6, 1979, the Cambodian Communist Party was the only one responsible for the crimes committed in Cambodia. As evidence of this, I refer to Cambodia's 1976 constitution, the first page of which reads in part: "After leading the national revolution that fully and completely obtained democracy on April 17, 1975, the Cambodian Communist Party continues to lead the nationalist revolution and to build the nation emphatically and with a monopoly on all its parts." This is the evidence I want to show to the nation and to the people through this tribunal.

First, I would like to evaluate the crimes committed throughout the country from April 17, 1975, to January 6, 1979. After April 17, Pol Pot became greedy by enacting policies that claimed the lives of so many people. This was because Pol Pot controlled everything, especially a party whose members numbered in the tens of thousands.

Our crimes at that time were many. More than 1 million lives were lost under the Cambodian Communist Party, of which I was a member. I admit that I am responsible for my role in these crimes. Let me express my profound regret for the atrocities committed by the Cambodian Communist Party between April 17, 1975, and January 6, 1979.

Secondly, I would like to clarify the crimes committed at the S-21 prison. I am responsible for the crimes committed at S-21, especially the torture and execution of people there, as I have already expressed when the co-investigating judges requested the acting out of events in order to assist in recalling what happened at the Choeung Ek killing fields and at the [current] Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

May I be permitted to apologise to the survivors of the regime and the family members of the victims. I say that I am sorry now, and I beg all of you to consider this wish. I wish that you would forgive me for the taking of lives. I know that my crimes, in particular those against women and children. cannot be tolerated. It is my hope, however, that you would at least leave the door open for forgiveness.

Thirdly, my feelings of guilt cause me great suffering whenever I am reminded of the past. I feel shock whenever I think of the actions I took and the orders I gave to others, which claimed so many innocent lives. Though I was following the orders of Angkar, I still must take responsibility for these crimes. I have already told the co-investigating judges that I was taken hostage and served merely as a performer in a criminal regime.

I am certain that everyone will think that I am a coward, that I am inhuman. I am willing to accept these words honestly and respectfully. In S-21, I considered my own life and the lives of my family as more important than those of the prisoners, and I could not defy the orders of my superiors. Even though I knew these orders were criminal, I dared not think this way at the time. It was a life-and-death problem for me and my family.

As the head of S-21, I never considered any other alternative to carrying out all orders from my seniors, even though I knew that to do so would mean the loss of thousands of lives. Now, I feel a deep guilt, regret and shame, as I know that I have made so many enormous mistakes against my nation, against the whole Cambodian population, against the families of all the victims who lost their lives at S-21 and against members of my own family, as well, some of whom have already passed away.

To resolve these mistakes, I have decided to cooperate with the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, as this is the only way to share the great sorrow over the crimes of S-21 and those committed against the Cambodian community as a whole, and to account for what I have done to my people.

[I am compelled] to tender myself honestly to the [court] to be tried under the law. I promise to continue my cooperation.

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