Duch Says He Is Responsible For Deaths of Infants at S-21

Former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday he accepted responsibility for the murder of children by the secret police under his command, whom he said he personally trained to interrogate and kill detainees unquestioningly seen as enemies. After a week’s recess, trial resumed Monday­­ in its 24th day.

Under questioning from prosecutors and lawyers for his alleged victims, the accused, best known as Duch, 66, offered few of the objections that in previous trial days appeared to minimize his role or knowledge of crimes alleged against him.

Cambodian Deputy Co-Prosecutor Tan Senarong asked Duch why children had been taken to S-21 after their mothers were arrested, whether they were also suspected of wrongdoing and why most were not photographed.

According to a prosecution analysis of the 5,183 existing prisoner photographs from S-21, three percent of those depicted were children.

Duch said that while commanding the Kompong Speu province wartime prison camp M-13, former Khmer Rouge Deense Minister Son Sen had told him to eliminate children to prevent the possibility of revenge.

However no such risk existed at S-21.

“I myself abided to implement the party’s policy at S-21,” Duch said.

“I acknowledge and accept full responsibility for that crime.”

Duch also said that he had been personally unaware of the practice of smashing children’s heads against tree trunks, as a sign at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center museum in Dangkao district claims occurred, but that he was now persuaded that such things had happened.

In their August indictment, judicial investigators said that on a single day in 1970, as many as 170 children were killed at Choeung Ek.

Duch, however, disputed the investigators’ finding that witnesses claimed that children were executed by being dropped from a third-floor balcony at the S-21 compound.

“No one dared to kill someone freely and let the prisoners see it,” he said. “The horrendous images of those children being smashed against a tree, yes they were done by my subordinates and I myself will not blame my subordinates, but I am criminally responsible because it is under my supervision.”

Under questioning by international Deputy Co-Prosecutor William Smith, Duch also said that he had built a training center near the S-21 headquarters specifically for the purpose of giving interrogators instructions as often as once a week.

“If you did not regard [detainees] as enemies, you could never extract confessions from them. So I talked to every cadre to regard the people who were sent as enemies,” Duch said.

Under questioning by civil party lawyer Alain Werner, one of a team of attorneys representing 38 of the 93 alleged victims at trial, Duch confirmed an earlier claim that, while S-21 chairman he had reviewed about 200,000 pages of confessions.

“There is a way of calculation, based on the numbers of hours, of days of working,” Duch said.

However, he disputed a claim made last month by expert prosecution witness and historian Craig Etcheson, who testified that the information Duch provided to his superiors influenced their decision-making and therefore the number of victims of S-21.

“I don’t understand the conclusion by Mr Craig Etcheson. I don’t have any idea to which sources he’s based his arguments,” said Duch.

, referring in particular to his annotations in the written confessions extracted from detainees.

“If I tried to annotate, that shows I was biased toward any particular individual, I would be in trouble,” he said.

Questioning by civil parties is expected to resume this morning.


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