Comrade Duch, the head of the Khmer Rouge’s infamous S-21 prison centre, yesterday returned to the subject of interrogation methods used on prisoners, adding this time that he had picked some of them up during his own interrogation under Lon Nol in the late 1960s.
When shown a video of a former detainee describing being beaten, having his nails ripped out, being electrocuted and dunked into water headfirst, Duch – whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav – said that the testimony is “exaggerated”.
However, he did admit that sometimes prisoners were electrocuted, while others were suffocated with plastic bags until they lost consciousness, then revived to continue the interrogation.
“[The] electrocution method was preferred by Nat,” said Duch, referring to the cadre who was chairman of S-21 while he was the deputy. “Nat preferred the electrocution by using the manual dial telephone.”
Duch said that he learned interrogation methods from his own experience at the hands of the Lon Nol regime, which the Khmer Rouge toppled in 1975. He mentioned being beaten and waterboarded, with a krama placed over his mouth and water poured over it.
However, Duch did not directly admit to these tactics being used at S-21. He said only that if overzealous guards beat an important prisoner to death, they would be detained and punished.
Victor Koppe, co-defender of Nuon Chea, grilled Duch on whether he picked up his interrogation methods from a CIA manual, written by the agency’s first civilian director, Allen Dulles, or any other manuals written by foreign governments. Duch said that while he read translated parts of Dulles’ book, he did not use the methods described.
Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne also questioned Duch on medical experiments carried out at the security centre. Documents from S-21 described people in various states of mutilation being submerged in water to see how long it would take them to resurface.
Duch gave contradictory answers, at first denying that such experiments took place, but later describing an incident where he and a cadre named Hor participated in one such submersion of a woman’s body.
Part of S-21’s grim work was determining the identity of, and extracting confessions from, Vietnamese “spies”. The interrogators used a rudimentary lie detection method by measuring the prisoners’ pulse during questioning. If it quickened, they were a spy, Duch said.