Civil party lawyers say Duch has habitually misled tribunal.
JUDGES should not be fooled by the partial confessions and feigned contrition Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, has employed in a bid to downplay the savage crimes he committed as Tuol Sleng prison commandant, civil party lawyers argued Monday during the first round of closing statements in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s first case.
Four groups of lawyers representing 90 civil parties spent the day attacking claims that have been central to Duch’s defence strategy – that he had no choice but to follow the orders of top Khmer Rouge leaders, for example, and that he did not participate directly in interrogations, torture and executions.
“Your honours must objectively, we say, review the evidence to determine whether or not what has been accepted by the accused amounts to full disclosure and the full truth,” said lawyer Karim Khan.
Kong Pisey, a lawyer for Civil Parties Group 2, told the court that his clients viewed Duch’s repeated professions of remorse as contrived. “His attempts at forging remorse by crying, often around 4pm at the end of the hearing, can be described as crocodile tears. The civil parties felt that the tears were orchestrated and devoid of meaning.”
Lawyers also took issue with the more theatrical performances of Duch and his defence lawyers. Khan highlighted an exchange on September 16 in which international defence lawyer Francois Roux asked Duch whether civil parties could visit him in prison, and whether he would “open the door of your soul” to them. Duch responded that they could, and that he would.
“That kind of answer to that kind of question must be given either little probative value, or at the very least, it must be approached with the utmost caution,” Khan said.
Later, lawyer Philippe Canonne criticised references made by Duch and Roux to “The Death of the Wolf”, a poem by Alfred de Vigny that Duch has said helped him through his time as prison chief. Duch has highlighted, in particular, lines that read: “Shoulder your long and energetic task, / The way that Destiny sees fit to ask, / Then suffer and so die without complaint.”
Addressing Duch directly, Canonne questioned the relevance of the poem to the proceedings.
“We are not here in a trial dealing with elegancy,” he said. “We are not here in a literary discussion. I am speaking to you about the 12,000 people who died in Tuol Sleng.”
Trying ‘to bluff this court’
Khan said the clearest example of Duch’s refusal to come clean during the trial came on June 22, when he described instructions he provided for the torture of Khmer Rouge leader Ney Saran, alias Ya, in 1976.
In a letter dated October 1, 1976, Duch encouraged interrogator Tang Sin Hean, alias Pon, to step up the intensity of Ya’s torture sessions, writing: “Although it may lead to death, comrade is not acting against Angkar’s regulations.”
Duch told the court in June that the message had merely been a ploy to frighten Ya into confessing to crimes committed against the regime.
But Khan contested that assertion.
“This was not a strategy to bluff a detainee,” Khan said. “This is a strategy of the detainee to try to bluff this court.”
Khan also disputed Duch’s claim that to have had little control the operation of Tuol Sleng, calling it inconsistent with the defendant’s own testimony.
He referred to hearings in June, during which Duch described his ability to save artists from execution as well as his establishment of the killing fields at Cheoung Ek.
“He didn’t require consultation for these not-insignificant decisions. He did it under his own volition,” he said. “What happened to this autonomy?
Where did it dissolve? Where did it evaporate when it came to the interrogations, the torture and the killing of so many people?”
Kong Pisey called Duch’s cooperation with the court “neither sincere nor truthful”, highlighting, in particular, his responses to allegations of sexual violence at Tuol Sleng.
Though Duch acknowledged in June that a schoolteacher imprisoned at Tuol Sleng had been raped with a stick, he said he knew of no other such incidents.
Kong Pisey said Duch should be held “criminally liable for at least three rapes” that were mentioned during the hearings.
“The accused had sufficient reason to know that the male interrogators and guards who were deprived of a sexual life would be more likely to exploit the defenceless situation of the women prisoners,” he said.
Several lawyers emphasised that their clients were not looking for revenge, and they elaborated on the types of reparations they were seeking as well as how they should be financed.
Kong Pisey said Duch’s self-described indigence was was no excuse for him to “sit back and relax”, and suggested that he instead spend his years in prison writing his autobiography, the proceeds of which could go towards reparations.
The four groups of civil party lawyers submitted a joint filing in September requesting, among other things, free medical care and the building of memorial pagodas as part of a reparations award. The Trial Chamber is likely to rule on reparations when it issues a verdict, which is expected early next year.