Former S-21 guard Him Huy confessed Thursday to personally executing a detainee at the Choeung Ek killing fields on the order of a senior S-21 official whose identity has now dimmed in his memory.
The person may have been the accused, former secret police chief Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch, or his deputy Khim Vat, alias Hor, both of whom gave instructions to bash in the heads of the condemned and slit their throats before dumping them in mass graves, said Him Huy.
The most momentous parts of Mr Huy’s testimony were nevertheless compressed into a few brief moments at the end of Thursday’s session as Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn monopolized questioning of the witness over more than four hours that contained little review of prior witness statements or documentary evidence.
Refusing the services of a court-appointed psychiatrist, Mr Huy, 54, currently a farmer in Kandal province’s Koh Thom district, appeared to steel himself against painful emotions aroused by his testimony.
Mr Huy said he arrived at S-21 in 1976 as a lowly combatant but, following the successive purges of his superiors, was gradually promoted to be in charge of the traffic of detainees from their place of arrest to the prison and from the prison to mass graves.
Under questioning by Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne, Mr Huy said that Hor had relayed instructions from Duch to beat in detainees heads with an oxcart axle before slitting their throats, stripping the bodies naked and dumping them into mass graves.
“After we struck the blow to their necks, then we had to slit their necks to make sure they were dead,” said Mr Huy. “The instructions were given by Hor but the decision to issue such instructions was made by Duch.”
Duch sometimes visited the scene of executions to observe, said Mr Huy.
Before accompanying groups of as many as 100 condemned to Choeung Ek, Mr Huy said he was ordered to carry out an execution at a mass killing.
However he revised a statement given earlier to investigators that this was done at the order of Duch.
“I’m not really sure now whether at that time it was Duch or Hor because at that time it was almost dawn and it was a rush to finish the job,” said Mr Huy. “After I received the instructions, then I executed that prisoner.”
If daylight had risen while the mass executions were still going on, they might have been seen and their secrecy compromised, he said.
Under questioning by Judge Nonn, My Huy said that completing the task of removing a load of 70 condemned prisoners from S-21 and carrying out their executions at Choeung Ek would start at 6:30 pm, when guards would begin removing detainees from their cells.
“It took hours,” he said. “We finished by one or two in the morning.”
Mr Huy’s testimony is to continue on Monday.
Judge Nonn also announced Thursday that the chamber had denied protective measures to a witness, an S-21 interrogator identified as KW-10, who is due to be heard next week.
“He is so well known that protective measures would be ineffective,” the judge said.