After four years away from the courtroom, Kaing Guek Eav, the chief of Phnom Penh’s notorious S-21 Khmer Rouge security center, returned to the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday to argue that Nuon Chea’s attempt to distance himself from atrocities committed at the jail were “meaningless”.
In 2010 Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who oversaw the torture and execution of more than 15,000 people at the prison, became the first Khmer Rouge official to be found guilty of crimes during the reign of the regime, during which an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died.
Duch last testified in Case 002/01 in 2012 and returned yesterday to give evidence in the same case, which sees Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea and the regime’s head of state Khieu Samphan on trial for genocide.
Duch repeated allegations on Tuesday that Duch had given direct orders for the interrogation and torture of those brought to the prison.
Responding to questions from the co-investigating judges, Duch said he was surprised to learn that Chea had rejected allegations he ordered torture at S-21, also known as Toul Sleng.
“This rejection is meaningless,” he said, adding that all actions taken at the prison were done under the supervision of the top Khmer Rouge leadership.
“The rejection [of the allegations] by Uncle Nuon is a surprise to me. I’m really surprised. I did not expect that. S-21 was like other security departments in Democratic Kampuchea,” he said, using the official name of the country at the time.
“The fact that … Uncle Nuon rejected this is wrong. In the communist party, it was the secretary and deputy secretary who made decisions,” he said. “That was a measure taken by the communist party.”
The former S-21 chief was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity and violating the Geneva Convention.
The current phase of Case 002/02 focuses on the Khmer Rouge internal security department.
On Tuesday, Duch spoke of how Son Sen, the Khmer Rouge defense minister who was his immediate superior, had also given orders for him to implement.
“When I was called to work, I only met one-on-one with Son Sen and Nuon Chea. I had a journal to jot down the agenda they told me on that day and I had to implement what I briefly wrote down,” he said.
However, he said he had not been involved in making arrests and transferring detainees to the security center.
Chres Phy, a 36-year-old farmer from Kampong Speu province’s Udong commune who lost two brothers during to the Khmer Rouge, said he was unhappy with the “inaccurate” answers given by Duch.
“He has to give clear answers concerning his role. If he gives a clear answer, the people will be satisfied,” he said, adding that survivors and their relatives were still searching for answers to the root causes behind the mass slaughter of Cambodians by Cambodians.
Neth Pheaktra, a spokesman for the Khmer Rouge tribunal told VOA Khmer that Duch’s testimony would continue for several days.