Torture memories: A Cambodian man inspecting two jars allegedly used to torture prisoners at a former Khmer Rouge prison, known as S-21, of the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.Picture: AP
The Brunei Times
The Brunei Times
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
A MAN accused of running an infamous Khmer Rouge torture center broke down in tears at his trial yesterday as he spoke of the imprisonment and execution of former comrades in the facility he commanded.
Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch (pronounced Doik), testified to Cambodia's UN-assisted genocide tribunal that the prison's own guards and interrogators were also among those executed during the regime's brutal rule, in some cases for simple irregularities and mishaps in carrying out their duties.
He commanded Phnom Penh's S-21 prison, where as many as 16,000 men, women and children were tortured before being sent to their deaths when the communist group held power in 1975-79.
About 1.7 million Cambodians died from forced labour, starvation, medical neglect and executions under the regime.
The tribunal also ruled Monday that Duch who is being tried for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture was held in government custody longer than is legally allowed, and if found guilty can apply to have his sentence reduced.
The 66-year-old displayed rare emotion during his testimony as he spoke of seeing fellow revolutionaries locked up in the cells of his prison.
"I did not want them to see my face when they were in such conditions," he said as tears rolled down his face. He said even today he tries not to recall them.
"Betraying friends, yes, I did. That was beyond cowardly," he said.
Duch had previously testified that being sent to S-21 was tantamount to a death sentence. Most prisoners were tortured into giving fanciful confessions that suited the Khmer Rouge's political outlook, though they generally had been loyal members of the group.
He also said more than 100 personnel from S-21 and the Prey Sar prison a reeducation centre on the outskirts of Phnom Penh were arrested, tortured and executed for minor offences. He said he was the one who reported such incidents to his superiors.
Those killed included torturers, security guards and interrogators. Their wives and children were also arrested and executed because they were considered the regime's enemies, he said.