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S-21 called worst prison

S-21 called worst prison


Expert tells court 'techniques' more brutal than other centres.

Photo by: AFP/ECCC pool

Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, during his trial at Cambodia's war crimes tribunal in this file photo.

AMERICAN specialist Craig Etcheson sought to dispute defence arguments that Duch was a scapegoat for the wrongs of the Khmer Rouge regime, telling the UN-backed war crimes court Thursday that the torture techniques used at S-21 were more horrendous than those at other security offices throughout the country.

Speaking at the trial of former S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav, Etcheson, who is currently an investigator with the co-prosecutors, said that at zone-level security offices and the security offices situated in the regime's lower echelons, the main torture techniques were "whipping,  suffocation with a plastic bag and electrocution".

However at S-21, methods such as "burning, removing fingernails and toenails, putting salt or saltwater on wounds, tormenting people with poisonous insects", were used.

"There was a difference in the torture practices at S-21 and the torture practices at other security offices," Craig Etcheson told the chamber.

Etcheson, who is the author of The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea, was called on to provide expert testimony on the implementation of regime policy at S-21 prison.

Answering questions put by civil party lawyer Alain Werner about the policy of "smashing" cadres, Etcheson emphasised that the policy meant more than just a bullet to the head.

"Smash means something more than killing," Etcheson explained. "It was to smash into little pieces."

He said that starvation could also be considered a form of smashing. 

"Starvation of prisoners in the security offices appeared to be a very widespread policy throughout Democratic Kampuchea."

Cambodian defence lawyer Kar Savuth disputed claims made by Etcheson that the S-21 prison was the regime's largest torture facility.


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