Duch Impassive as S-21 Charges Are Read Out

With no arguments yet made, the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Mon­day resumed the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who sat in court coolly leafing through his in­dictment as its gory contents were read aloud.

Adopting a genteel demeanor, Duch, 66, politely identified himself to Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn with a detailed history of the many names he has used since his birth in November 1942.

“In 1957, I took the preparatory school exam and I changed from Kaing Khieu to Kaing Guek Eav as agreed by my father,” he said.

“Then when I came to enter the revolution Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, and Duch is my revolutionary name.”

“In 1986 I went to China. I used the name Hang Pin. In China, I worked until 1988 and I came back and I still used the name Hang Pin,” he said.

Responding to questions, he smiled, several times respectfully pausing to fold his hands in a “sampeah.”

Over nearly four hours, Trial Chamber clerks Se Kolvuthy and Duch Phary read 150 paragraphs from the indictment handed down seven months ago, describing how the accused was the leader of a campaign of extraordinary violence in the service of a regime that had no legal system but was singularly bent on eliminating subversive elements and hidden enemies.

In the courtroom Duch’s breath appeared to quicken only slightly as the court heard that he had in­structed S-21 staff to slit the throats of detainees to ensure that they did not survive, that autopsies were performed on living persons, that 160 children were executed on a single day or that as many as 1,000 people were bled to death.

According to a prisoner list compiled by prosecutors, S-21 consumed 5,000 government officials and 4,500 military personnel from nearly every zone, district, ministry and military unit, including 200 of its own staff and 400 Vietnamese soldiers and civilians.

Matching entry records with ex­ecution logs gave a minimum of 12,380 executions. The true number is certainly higher, as some records were lost and not all detentions were recorded, according to the indictment.

Despite evidence revealed in August by the Documentation Center of Cambodia that as many as 177 people were released from the prison, the clerks read aloud the indictment’s claim that no consideration of release ever occurred at S-21.

Prosecutors said subsequently that a comparatively small number of releases would not change the overall nature of S-21, which was an institution intended to eliminate its detainees.

According to the indictment, Monday also marked the 33rd an­niversary of a decision by the Communist Party’s Central Com­mittee, which Duch told investigators was the start of the in­ternal purges that saw in­creasing numbers of senior re­gime cadre sent to S-21.

After deliberations, the Trial Chamber denied a defense request that 10 paragraphs concerning Duch’s character also be read aloud, ruling that they may constitute exculpatory evidence.

“The matters concerning the character of the accused is an event to be discussed during the proceedings,” Nil Nonn said.

Citing a psychological examination, judicial investigators described Duch as lacking empathy, but he was said to have cried in February last year when judicial investigators returned with him to the Choeung Ek killing fields, where the bulk of S-21 detainees were executed.

Duch’s biographer Nic Dunlop said by telephone from Bangkok on Monday that Duch’s poise in court was unsurprising.

“It’s entirely consistent with what we know about him so far,” he said. “People ask me all the time if people can change, whether his contrition is genuine. It’s impossible to say.”

The prosecutors’ opening statements are expected to be heard this morning at the tribunal.

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