Monday, 20 July 2009

Ex KRouge guard describes life under jail boss

Photo issued by the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia shows Him Huy, a former deputy battalion security guard at the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison. Him Huy wept in court Monday as he described how he feared his prison boss, Kaing Guek Eav, standing trial at the war crimes tribunal. (AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Mon Jul 20, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP) – A former guard at the main Khmer Rouge torture centre wept in court Monday as he described how he feared his prison boss standing trial at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal.

Him Huy, 54, was giving evidence against Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people held at Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21.

"I did not dare criticise him (Duch). I was afraid I would be killed... Even when I saw him riding a bicycle towards me, I would find a place to get away from him," Him Huy told the court.

"Frankly, when I see him it reminds me of the moment I worked with him. I was afraid of him. I did not dare look into his face. Even now I'm fearful of him," he said, weeping.

At the start of his testimony Thursday, the former guard recounted how he killed a prisoner in 1977 at Choeung Ek "killing field," under orders from either Duch or the prison chief's now-deceased deputy, Hor.

He told the court Monday that Duch carried a pistol with him at all times and that the boss "was rather gentle when he spoke, but he was very firm and meticulous."

Him Huy said also that he believed the jail chief had the power to release inmates, contradicting Duch's claims that he was under orders to have all prisoners killed.

"At S-21, nobody ordered him (Duch). It was only him that ordered other people," Him Huy said.

The 66-year-old Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has accepted responsibility for his role governing the jail and begged forgiveness near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge, and maintains he never personally killed anyone.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia. Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork, torture and execution during the 1975-1979 regime.

Four other former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in detention and are expected to face trial next year at the court, which was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the UN and the Cambodian government.

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