Ieng Sary’s defence lawyer, Michael Karnavas, yesterday picked up where Nuon Chea’s defence team left off last week, hammering at the credibility of testimony given by the most potentially damaging witness in Case 002, convicted Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch.
In an at times testy session of court, Karnavas suggested that gaps in Duch’s first-hand knowledge of events had been filled in by his exposure to Khmer Rouge documents and history books.
He forced the former chief of the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 interrogation facility to concede that, in a statement made to the court’s co-investigating judges, he said he avoided work to the “maximum” and “thus never grasped anything concretely”.
“If we were to reflect back on a day in the life of comrade Duch, your existence was more or less S-21 and then back home?” Karnavas at one point asked.
Karnavas put forward examples of statements Duch had made to the court’s co-investigating judges, indicating limits to his knowledge in a line of questioning that was frequently objected to as leading by international deputy co-prosecutor William Smith.
Specifically, Karnavas focused on whether Duch could provide any concrete evidence suggesting that Ieng Sary was consulted on arrests in his role as minister of Foreign Affairs.
“In practice, I do not know,” Duch said, insisting that he knew Ieng Sary was involved because, following the principles of the regime and its rigid hierarchy, he had to have been.
Duch resisted efforts by Karnavas to make him concede that he had relied on secondary evidence to formulate what the prosecution is arguing is unique and reliable first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of the Khmer Rouge.
But Karnavas did demonstrate there were limits to what Duch, who conceded that he had subsequently read history books about the regime, remembered about events.
“The saying goes that mind your own business. I must know what is happening at S-21. [Things outside of S-21], that is not my business,” Duch told the court.
He also conceded that in one document he submitted to the court’s co-investigating judges, he referred to himself as a “researcher”, again furthering a line of questioning pursued by Karnavas in his attempt to discredit the first-hand nature of Duch’s testimony.
To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at [email protected]