Duch Held Personal Torture ‘Training Sessions,’ Tribunal Hears

Kaing Guek Eav, the former head of Phnom Penh’s notorious S-21 security center better known by the alias Duch, held personal “training sessions” on how to torture prisoners, including forcing them to eat feces, an ex-interrogator told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday.

Prak Khan, 61, who served as an interrogator at the prison where more than 12,000 people are thought to have perished, said he attended several such sessions at Duch’s house in the city, where the prison chief would outline various torture techniques.

Prak Khan testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (ECCC)
Prak Khan testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (ECCC)

“Every half month or one month, we were invited for a training session at Duch’s house about various techniques that should be used for interrogation and torturing,” said Mr. Khan, who added that Khmer Rouge Defense Minister Son Sen was occasionally in attendance.

“What I can recall is that Duch and Son Sen said that S-21 was the life of the country, so we had to work hard to search for the network or strings that the prisoners gave us in the answers,” he said.

Mr. Khan described a wide range of sadistic torture techniques that were utilized at the behest of Duch, who in 2010 became the first Khmer Rouge official to be found guilty at the tribunal.

Despite the brutality of the interrogation tactics, the witness said, Duch made it clear that prisoners needed to be kept alive until a full “confession” was obtained, including information linking them to a perceived enemy network.

“On the techniques to mistreat prisoners, [Duch told us] not to make it severe so that they died and the confession cut off, and he provided successive training on this matter,” he said.

“The method of waterboarding was also taught by him. How prisoners had to be forced to eat feces and to drink urine. They were all taught by Duch,” he added.

Mr. Khan added that Duch—who is expected to testify in the current segment of the second phase of Case 002 relating to S-21—also attempted to humiliate and degrade inmates, including forcing them to worship pictures of dogs.

“During the political study session, an image of a dog was used and the prisoners were asked to pay homage to the image of the dog,” he said. “The purpose was to humiliate the prisoner and that they should confess.”

Mr. Khan said he had overheard Duch talking about sending reports to “brothers No. 1 and 2”—the aliases of Pol Pot and Nuon Chea, respectively—but that he never heard the prison chief refer to them by name.

The witness said the torture he inflicted on prisoners at the security center still haunted him.

“At S-21 I could never sleep well at night time, and only after January 7 day I felt better, but even at the present time, when I think about what happened at that time, my chest is pounding,” he said.

“It was Duch who taught us, who gave us such instructions that we had to be cruel. We had to be arrogant and…not think of, or have any pity, toward prisoners. We had to be absolute in striking the enemy.”

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