Convicted former Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, took the stand at Cambodia’s long-running genocide tribunal on Tuesday, as a witness against fellow former leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
Duch testified that Nuon Chea, the deputy secretary of the now-defunct Communist Party of Kampuchea, would have been aware that executions, torture, and medical testing were being carried out on inmates at the S-21 prison from August 1977, when the two first met.
Nuon Chea had been transferred to the same zone as Duch during that time and oversaw his work, Duch said.
“It was clear I was his subordinate, so in short he was aware of [the prison's management],” Duch told the United Nations-backed tribunal.
“I did not spend hours with him," Duch added. "My [first] meeting with Brother Nuon lasted for 10 minutes at the most."
Duch also testified that the prison management carried out medical testing on live prisoners, with the approval of high-ranking party leaders.
S-21 and other “security centres” were an integral part of the radical Khmer Rouge regime, which tried to restart Cambodia from Year Zero as a communist peasant utopia.
Duch said the policy of Khmer Rouge party leaders from 1971 onwards was to “smash” any enemies, a euphemism meaning execution.
Executions of entire families was common, he said. "After 1975 when the parents were taken away and killed, the children would be taken away and killed" also, he told the court.
So-called enemies of the people included former soldiers and officials of the previous Lon Nol regime, which was overthrown by the Khmer Rouge in April 1975, as well as intellectuals, foreigners, Buddhist monks, Muslims and purged party members.
Duch was convicted of crimes against humanity as the chairman of S-21 in 2010 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012.
Duch will provide nine days of testimony on crimes committed at Phnom Penh’s notorious prison, where some 14,000 suspected opponents of the regime and members of their families were tortured and executed.