Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Christ, Nuon Chea and the UN

Christ, Nuon Chea and the UN

Christ, Nuon Chea and the UN

Duch names names as court finally gets to discussion of S-21 prison.

BROTHER No 2 Nuon Chea had control over the Tuol Sleng detention centre to which thousands were sent, almost all doomed for execution, former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav told Cambodia's war crimes court Wednesday, as his trial finally turned to the establishment of the notorious torture facility.

"Pol Pot had the original idea to create [S-21], Son Sen implemented it and Nuon Chea controlled it," Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his revolutionary name Duch, told the court.

Concluding preliminary questions into Duch's role before 1975 as commander of another interrogation centre, the court formally entered its jurisdictional mandate of addressing crimes committed at Tuol Sleng, or S-21, the regime's primary security centre set up to eliminate so-called enemies.

But Duch denied that he was pointing the finger at other, mostly deceased former leaders, claiming responsibility for the prison's daily operations, including the torture of prisoners.

"I do not want to avoid the crimes I committed ... I just want to express the truth," he said.

"I myself was organising [prison] documents and confessions. The party's work was my responsibility. Also the records were my responsibility. The work of confessions and sending them to my superiors was my responsibility," he added.

However, Duch said earlier that he had been pressured to confess by  UN officials shortly after his arrest in 1999.

"[UN High Commissioner for Human Rights official Christophe] Peschoux didn't have any permission from the government yet but acted like a thief who came to me," Duch told the court.

"The United Nations should be more well-behaved, and not the way Mr Peschoux treated me," he said, adding that Peschoux, then a

local rights worker, shouted at him during several days of interrogation.

Duch said that Peschoux and his interpreter had offered him money to cross into Thailand as part of a plan to have him arrested and tried for his crimes in Belgium.

"The international police would arrest me and then I would be sent to Belgium," Duch said.

Despite his interaction with Peschoux, however, Duch described his discovery by journalists and his ultimate arrest the same year as a message from Christ.

"I told Nic Dunlop, ‘Christ brought you to meet me.' Nic Dunlop quoted those words [in his book, The Lost Executioner] and those are the words I spoke to him," Duch said.

Nuon Chea "not a controller"

Although it's not the first time Duch has named names inside the courtroom, lawyers for Nuon Chea present at the hearing played down the

accusations outside the court.

"On behalf of my defence team, I reject all the information that Duch invoked in the court relating to my client Nuon Chea. Nuon Chea is not the controller like Duch mentioned today," co-lawyer Son Arun told the Post after Wednesday's session.

"According to documents and himself, Nuon Chea was president of  the National Assembly in charge of Education and Propaganda [during the regime]. So, Nuon Chea did not have any power over S-21," he added.

As the hearing continued, the court continued to show signs that it was struggling with the three-way translation between Khmer, English and French.

Defence lawyer Francois Roux again called on judges to address what he called a "serious issue with translation", saying that, by his calculations only "50 percent" of the words were being translated correctly. 

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