Former guards from the S-21 detention center described on Monday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal how prisoners held at the center were tortured, with one saying he saw the accused, former secret police chairman Kaing Guek Eav, striking a male prisoner with a stick.
“Duch actually used a rattan stick to beat the detainees,” said 51-year-old Saom Met, a former guard at the facility. “He beat him on the back.”
Mr Met said he also witnessed prisoners have their hair pulled, their nails removed and a red-colored liquid medicine poured on top of their wounded backs. He added that several prisoners were watched closely to make sure they did not attempt suicide, with guards going so far as to remove nails and screws from the cells so the inmates would not try to swallow them.
Another guard at the detention center, Chhun Phal, said he saw prisoners brought back from interrogations with bite marks and other wounds on their bodies. He said detainees were typically shackled and meagerly fed.
“Detainees could not stand up unless they asked permission to do so from the guards. Without such permission they would not be allowed to do so,” the 47-year-old told the court. “I saw the bite marks and wounds, that’s all. Some of them did not have these marks or wounds when they returned” from being interrogated.
In addition to guarding prisoners at S-21, Mr Phal briefly worked toward the end of the Khmer Rouge regime outside of Phnom Penh at the Choeung Ek execution site and mass graves that are now known as the killing fields. There, he farmed rice and vegetables but recalled one instance when a superior ordered him to dig pits roughly 3 by 2 meters and bury dead prisoners inside.
“I could manage to only bury one pit of dead bodies,” he said of the unknown number of naked men placed in the communal grave. “I saw blood, too, but some detainees had some swollen throats and necks and some I would see bleeding. Their mouths’ were bleeding.”
Mr Phal’s testimony was undermined, however, when it occasionally contradicted his statement given earlier to co-investigative judges from the court. In that statement, he claimed to be able to read, write and understand the Khmer language. But when presented with documents, including Duch’s alleged list of interrogation, Mr Phal froze, saying his studies were “limited.”
Mr Phal has also told the co-investigative judges that rapes had occurred at S-21, but under questioning from co-prosecutor Anees Ahmed he admitted he was not witness to any such sexual assault.
“I personally did not see any rape, however I heard people talking about it…so I presumed rapes existed from what I heard,” he said.
Overall, Duch said he agreed with Mr Phal’s testimony.
“I was certain he was a staff member,” he said. “Maybe these are small things that he could not recall properly.”
Prosecutors are to begin their questioning of Mr Met this