Khmer Rouge torture chief Duch took the stand for the first time against his former supervisors on Monday, telling a UN-backed court that the regime had a policy to “arrest and kill” perceived enemies and spies.
Duch, who was given a life sentence by the tribunal for his role overseeing the deaths of more than 12,000 people at the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, was testifying against Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary, who face charges of atrocity crimes, including genocide, for their leadership of the Khmer Rouge.
“As a principle of the party at that [early] period, whoever stepped into liberated zones, whether poor or rich, whoever came to buy chickens, they would be arrested as spies and enemies and transferred to M-13 [prison] to be questioned and destroyed,” said Duch, who appeared before the court in a prison uniform.
M-13 was a jungle facility run by Duch before the Khmer Rouge took over the country. He would go on to run the Tuol Sleng prison, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, overseeing the torture and execution of thousands of perceived enemies of the state.
Duch told the court Monday that S-21 “probably” had the same policies as 196 security centers across the country.
Duch’s testimony came after a decision from the Trial Chamber that it would not hear “repetitive” testimony from defense on historical context, such as the US bombing of Cambodia prior to the Khmer Rouge takeover and Vietnam’s political intentions regarding Cambodia.