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'I closed my eyes, closed my ears' to Tuol Sleng, Duch says

'I closed my eyes, closed my ears' to Tuol Sleng, Duch says

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090616_03.jpg

Nuon Chea lawyers allege govt involvement in choice of judges.

Photo by: GEORGIA WILKINS

Duch testifies at the ECCC.

MOST detainees at Tuol Sleng prison were treated by guards "like animals" who were merely biding their time as they waited for execution orders to be handed down, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav told Cambodia's war crimes court Monday.

In the first day of testimony focused exclusively on the operations of the notorious torture centre, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, described the journey from detention to interrogation to torture to execution, including details of how prisoners were shackled, blindfolded, hosed down and deprived of food and medical care.

"We already treated them as dead people," Duch said. "We only waited for the time when they would be smashed."  

Under questioning from Presiding Judge Nil Nonn, Duch frequently expressed ignorance of operational details, claiming that he delegated the day-to-day work of the prison to subordinates and avoided the prison compound altogether.  

"I tried to avoid those people who I knew. I did not want them to see my face when they were placed under such conditions," he told the court.

"I closed my eyes, closed my ears. I did not want to see the real situation."  

Duch is on trial for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions during his time as chief of Tuol Sleng.  

More interference charges

Also Monday, defence lawyers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal said a document obtained from a source they declined to identify could perhaps be evidence that Prime Minister Hun Sen was directly involved in the selecting of judges at the UN-backed court.

The allegation came from the lawyers of former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, who in recent weeks have alleged that classified documents were stolen from their office and who first argued that Victims' Unit chief Helen Jarvis's expressed political views could compromise her work at the court.

The document, which they say is a signed letter addressed to Hun Sen by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, lists judicial officers at the court and asks "for your exalted opinion and decision".

The typed document has been marked in pen. One name is crossed out. Some names have numbers next to them, and others have the words "au choix" ("chose", in French) written next to them. It appears to have been signed by Hun Sen.

"We are concerned about this document because it suggests that the prime minister may have been involved in appointing judges at the court, over and beyond the agreement and the law," said Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for the Nuon Chea defence team.

Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment Monday.

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