In a third straight day of questioning by judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav denied teaching his subordinates how to kill, something he said they knew instinctively.
He also said that under orders he had seen to the execution of four assassins sent to kill the leftwing British academic Malcolm Caldwell, who was murdered while traveling with a delegation in Phnom Penh in 1978.
The accused, best known as Duch, also said that when Vietnamese forces took Phnom Penh in January of 1979, he abandoned five detainees who were artists, spared because Pol Pot had hoped to use them to build a monument at Wat Phnom.
Duch told the court that before S-21 began carrying out executions at the Choeung Ek killing fields, detainees were killed on Street 163 near Wat Mohamontrey and at another location on Street 310.
“They used a knife to stab on the vein of the neck,” said Duch, adding that children were buried at the S-21 compound itself.
At Choeung Ek, the four S-21 staff turned instead to clubbing their victims to death, he added.
“Did you ever teach the method of killing to S-21 staff?” Mr Mony asked.
“I did not teach. I do not need to teach crocodiles how to swim because the crocodiles already know how to swim,” he said, also denying ever directly taking part in any executions.
Communist Party standing committee members sometimes required photographic proof that high-level detainees had in fact been killed, said Duch, explaining to Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne that photographs of the eviscerated bodies of former Finance Minister Vorn Vet and former S-21 Chairman Nat were taken.
The dead bodies of lower-level detainees were also photographed. However the images were only for use in case superiors specifically requested proof that an individual detainee had not fled or been released.
“In effect, you ordered the execution of more than 12,000 people. Is that correct?” Judge Silvia Cartwright asked.
Duch said he had done so, but only in the course of following orders.
“The implementation of the party’s political line on these more than 12,000 people was done under my authority,” he said.
Duch however disputed the finding by investigators—which the defense did not dispute in discussions with prosecutors—that as many as 1,000 people had been killed through the removal of their blood. Duch had already told the court on Tuesday that only 100 people had died in this fashion.
“I do not recognize the 1,000 figure,” he said.
He told Mr Lavergne that he had sought to keep four detainees for interrogation from a unit identified as Y-8. Duch said the men had assassinated a British journalist whom he mistakenly identified as Richard Dudman, a US reporter for the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
With Washington Post reporter Elizabeth Becker and Mr Caldwell, Mr Dudman met with Pol Pot in 1978 shortly before Mr Caldwell was murdered during the same visit.
“They were the soldiers who defended the ministry of defense,” said Duch. “They were the people who shot and assassinated the British journalist who visited Cambodia at the time.”
The four were executed on the orders of the Standing Committee, said Duch.
Mr Lavergne asked whether in carrying out orders, Duch recognized the humanity of his victims.
“Did S-21 prisoners have any kind of human reality to you? Was your job just executing simple mathematical operations?” he asked.
“I am accountable for the crimes committed at S-21 and that I am responsible, even more responsible for annotating on the documents, than those who took the prisoners to be smashed at Choeung Ek,” Duch said.
He referred to a now famous photograph of S-21 staff smiling together.
“I would say that it is a shame, it is shocking and it is very shameful for having such a picture to represent that I had killed more than 12,000 people. So I am accountable for all the crimes committed at S-21. I am moved for the fact that more than one million of the Cambodian population had been killed,” he said.
Following a recess for today’s public holiday for Queen Monineath’s birthday, the trial is to resume on Monday. Prosecutors have yet to question the accused on the functioning of Tuol Sleng and the Choeung Ek killing fields.