Jailed Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea on Tuesday sought to discredit testimony given to the UN-backed tribunal by his subordinate, the convicted torture chief Duch, who is in court this week to testify against three regime leaders on trial for atrocity crimes.
Duch has helped prosecutors outline the administrative structures and polices of the regime and on Tuesday encouraged leaders Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary to confess to crimes and apologize to the victims of the Khmer Rouge.
Given a chance for rebuttal, Nuon Chea said Duch was “valueless” as a witness. “We never take decayed wood, rotten wood, spoiled wood to carve out a Buddha,” he said.
During testimony Tuesday, Duch admitted he was “not clear” on the policymaking of the regime, but he said he did not believe that anyone below undersecretary would have made policies.
Nuon Chea was the regime’s leading ideologue, Khieu Samphan its nominal head of state and Ieng Sary its foreign minister. All three held top positions within party ranks.
“We were mistaken, and we have to discover the mistakes regarding our own people and apologize for them,” said Duch, who told the court that the communist party of the Khmer Rouge established policies of killing prisoners, starvation and forced deportation.
Meanwhile, earlier this month Nuon Chea wrote to the prosecution and other lead lawyers saying he was concerned about an eventual attempt on his life by Duch within the tribunal’s facility. Nuon Chea requested in a March 7 letter that his cell be locked to prevent such an attempt.