The “Standing Committee” of Democratic Kampuchea was directly responsible for sending prisoners to the notorious S-21 prison, where more than 12,000 people were systemically executed, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, testified yesterday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
The three defendants in Case 002 – Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea – were all allegedly key players in the senior-level committee.
“The standing committee made the decision referring to the number of people to be arrested,” Duch said yesterday during examination by the prosecution.
“I want to emphasize that S-21 was entitled only to send documents [confessions] to the Standing Committee. As for what was to be done with the documents, that was the competence of the Standing Committee,” the former S-21 prison chief said.
According to the indictment against the three surviving senior leaders, the Standing Committee included Nuon Chea, who it says was “second in the … hierarchy”, and fellow “full-rights” member Ieng Sary.
Although Khieu Samphan was not a “formal member” of the committee, the indictment says, “there is evidence of Khieu Samphan contributing to or assisting in the work of the Standing Committee”.
In several instances, Duch zealously implicated his superior, Brother No 2 Nuon Chea – at one point referring to him as “the decision-maker”.
Explaining an annotation by Nuon Chea that appeared on an S-21 confession, Duch said Brother No 2 “made the decision” about “how many people were to be arrested” and sent to S-21.
He also said that Nuon Chea “reprimanded” him for not interrogating prisoners.
Despite the fervour with which Duch implicated Brother No 2, the former prison chief was often reluctant to implicate co-defendant Ieng Sary directly during his testimony yesterday, despite much prodding by the prosecution.
In several exchanges between the prosecution and the former S-21 leader, the team tried to parse from Duch what exactly he meant when he said that S-21 confessions were sent to the heads of specific ministries, with an eye toward showing that Ieng Sary, as the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was responsible for executions.
However, Duch seemed to contradict himself, at times saying that the heads of departments simply “ensured” that the Standing Committee’s orders were implemented, and at other times saying they had to agree on the arrest of prisoners.
The prosecution team will get one more hour to examine Duch on Monday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Lynch at [email protected]