Not even Pol Pot had the right to release prisoners held by the Khmer Rouge, jailed prison chief Duch told judges on Thursday. Pol Pot was too respectful of communist principals, Duch said, and not even he dared to make unilateral decisions.
“Everybody who had been accused as an enemy and who had been imprisoned at S-21, none had a right to release,” Duch said. “Not even Pol Pot himself, who was the top leader of the Khmer Rouge.”
Pol Pot did not release prisoners, but he would issue orders for some not to be killed, Duch said.
Only a handful of people survived the facility, which was the Khmer Rogue’s top torture center, and prosecutors say more than 12,000 people who were sent there were later executed.
Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder for his role as chief of the prison, as well as its connected execution site, Choeung Ek.
Duch’s trial at the UN-backed court has been ongoing for a full month now, and the prison chief’s testimony, combined with others, is painting a picture of the regime as an organization whose principles and decisions led to mass killings.
The forced eviction of Phnom Penh when the Khmer Rouge came to power in April 1975 was a challenge to the social classes adopted by the Khmer Rouge, Duch said Thursday.
The march out of city centers, on April 17, began what the Khmer Rouge called Year Zero, and was one of many policies that would lead to the deaths of nearly 2 million people in three years and less than eight months.
However, Duch said Thursday that killing undertaken by Khmer Rouge cadre began even earlier, just after the US-backed coup of Lon Nol, in 1970, as the revolutionaries sought to protect their respective zones.
Usually, those killed were accused as spies, he said.