Under examination by deputy co-prosecutor William Smith, Duch revealed Nuon Chea had “ordered the executions of the remaining prisoners of S-21 in January 1979, as the Khmer Rouge were getting ready to evacuate Phnom Penh before the invading Vietnamese arrived.”
Asked how many prisoners there were when the order was given, Duch replied: “There were more than 100 prisoners, even over 500, I feel.”
He said the assignment was completed within three days.
Duch’s testimony in the current case, 002, adds to the findings in his own trial, case 001, with his incriminations of former superiors in the executions of foreign nationals captured off the southern coast in 1977.
“After the interrogations, there would be a decision to smash. The smashing was to be conducted in a form of burning to ash,” Duch said of the treatment meted out to four Westerners, an American, a New Zealander, an Australian and a Briton. “I was following the order from Nuon Chea, and I implemented the order.”
The court had earlier heard how one of the Westerners was burned alive.Duch said their corpses were burned to remove any evidence.
The former mathematics teacher and born again Christian also clarified how the decision-making process worked within the CPK, government, the Standing Committee and, in particular, the relationship between the top two men in the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot and Nuon Chea.
“The decision to arrest was made by the Standing Committee in a broad sense, but in a more practical sense it was Brother Pol who made the decision and in some cases Brother Nuon was the one who made such decisions,” he said.
Following the Vietnamese invasion, the leadership of the CPK retreated west into the remote countryside. Duch then informed Nuon Chea he had been forced to leave the S-21 documents behind, which included hundreds of confessions and photographs of tortured prisoners that would eventually be used to secure the convictions against him.
At the time, this prompted a sharp rebuke from Brother No. 2.
“On my side, we destroyed them all, you were very bad that you could not manage this,” Duch recounted Nuon Chea as saying. Nuon Chea has more recently referred to Duch as “rotten wood.” They aren’t on good terms, but share the same holding facilities which back onto the ECCC.
The tribunal has again been dogged by resignations and accusations of impropriety among the local and international component of the ECCC. There have also been calls for the resignation of New Zealand judge Silvia Cartwright after she wrote an email meant for prosecutor Andre Cayley but she mistakenly sent to entire court staff.
Cartwright and Cayley had previously been warned by the U.N.-backed court’s highest body that their trial management meetings may have created the appearance that they had privileged access to each other and the email revealed the pair have continued to share a close association.
Michael Karnavas, defense lawyer for Ieng Sary, has filed a motion to have Cartwright disqualified saying: “The nature of Judge Cartwright's association with international co-prosecutor Cayley shows actual bias or, at a minimum, the appearance of bias.”
The trial resumes on May 17.