Thirty years on, Khmer Rouge torturer in dock

Pol Pot's chief torturer took the stand today, charged with crimes against humanity in the first trial of a top Khmer Rouge cadre 30 years after the end of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia.

Duch, former chief of the S-21 prison where more than 14,000 "enemies" of the ultra-Maoist revolution died, stood before a five-judge panel and calmly answered questions about his background.



"I have been notified of the charges against me," the 66-year-old former maths teacher told the joint UN-Cambodian tribunal as hundreds of onlookers watched from a public gallery.



Prosecutors began laying out their case against Duch, accusing him of "crimes against humanity, enslavement, torture, sexual abuses and other inhumane acts" while chief of S-21, also known as Tuol Sleng and now a museum.



Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, is expected to enter a plea later this week. If found guilty in a verdict expected in September, he could face a maximum of life in prison in Cambodia, which has no death penalty.



The born-again Christian has expressed remorse for the S-21 victims, most of them tortured and forced to confess to spying and other crimes before they were bludgeoned to death in the "Killing Fields" outside the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.



During questioning by court investigators before his trial, Duch said he was just following orders.



"No one could have sent people to S-21 without the decision of the standing committee of the Khmer Rouge," Duch was quoted as saying in the prosecutor's statement read out today.



Survivors reacted with pain and anger as they watched Duch, dressed in a white shirt and dark pants, in the dock.



"Duch killed thousands of people, but he showed no regret. I just don't understand," said Om Chantha, a 69-year-old widow whose husband, a doctor, was killed by the Khmer Rouge.





The trial, held in a specially built court on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, marks a turning-point for the strife-torn country, where nearly every family lost someone during Pol Pot's "Year Zero" revolution to achieve an agrarian utopia.



Duch is expected to be a key witness in the future trials of those also deemed "most responsible" for one of the darkest chapters in the 20th century.



The other four - "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, the regime's ex-president Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary, its foreign minister, and his wife - have denied knowledge of any atrocities.



Advocates hope the tribunal - formally known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) - will serve as a model of professionalism for the country's erratic and politicised judiciary.



Critics say the tribunal's integrity is threatened by allegations of corruption and political interference, particularly on the issue of pursuing other Khmer Rouge suspects.



A bid to go after more suspects was brushed aside in January by the tribunal's Cambodian co-prosecutor, who said it would not help national reconciliation. The government has denied meddling in the court, but rights groups are concerned.



"The Extraordinary Chambers must urgently expand its prosecution strategy to investigate and prosecute more cases before it is too late," said Brittis Edman, a Cambodia researcher for rights group Amnesty International.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us