Former S-21 chairman Kaing Guek Eav on Thursday was again confronted with testimony that his acts while in control of a Kompong Speu province prison camp had been more violent and cruel than he has admitted to the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
French ethnographer Francois Bizot, the court’s first witness, gave uncontested evidence Wednesday that the accused, best known as Duch, had frequently and enthusiastically beaten detainees at the M-13 prison camp. The claims contradicted statements Duch made earlier in the week that he had only tortured two people.
Tribunal investigators claim that M-13, which was in operation prior to the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime, was where Duch honed his skills before taking control of the more notorious S-21 torture facility in Phnom Penh.
Suffering from poor eyesight, witness Ouch Sorn, 72, who was detained at M-13 for a year starting in 1973, could only recognize Duch with the assistance of a video close-up displayed on a monitor at the witness stand Thursday.
But he appeared to recall his time at M-13 with little difficulty. Contrary to Duch’s claims that he had personally tortured only two people at M-13, that as few as 200 people had been killed, and that beating was almost exclusively used in torturing detainees, Ouch Sorn said M-13 had operated on a far grander scale.
Torture had involved the removal of fingernails, the insertion of needles into fingers, and the submersion of detainees’ heads into a pond, he told the court.
“One day, I saw [Duch] beating a female person with a whip. The whip was about the size of the thumb. After a while, then guards came and beat the girl. After she became unconscious, Duch slapped his butt, and he laughed. He slapped his butt, and he laughed because the girl was having seizures on the ground,” Ouch Sorn said.
Chained together, a man and woman were executed with blows to the head and dumped into a burial pit. But the woman was still alive when she was kicked into the pit, Ouch Sorn said.
“She was unconscious, but they kicked her into the pit, and they buried her while she was still breathing,” he said.
Though having some difficulty giving precise figures, Ouch Sorn also claimed that between 2,000 and 3,000 prisoners were held at the camp.
Under questioning by Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne, Duch denied much of Ouch Sorn’s testimony, but the witness stood by his claims.
“He talked more than the truth,” Duch said. “I interrogated a woman. When I did so, I never let any detainee see it. That’s number one. Number two, I never beat any female detainee. And third, when a detainee was beaten, no one else was helping me to beat that person.”
No detainee was immersed in any pond as a form of torture, Duch added.
“I said already there were no pliers, no pins, and no nails were pulled,” Duch said.
Testimony concerning M-13 was due to conclude this week; however, two further prosecution witnesses are scheduled to be heard on the matter.
Following the Khmer New Year recess, the trial is to resume on April 20 at 9 am.