After years of red tape and disputes over legal jurisdiction, the first accused Khmer Rouge war criminal spoke before a tribunal in Cambodia. The defendant is Kaing Guek Eav (commonly called Duch), a 66 year old man, and one of five men charged with crimes against humanity in the deaths of 1.7 million people.
“Under his authority, countless abuses were committed, including mass murder, arbitrary detention and torture,” said a presiding judge, reading the indictment to the court.
He listed methods of torture that included beating, stabbing, suspension from ropes, removal of fingernails and drowning in pits filled with water.
Converted in 1996 by American evangelical missionaries, Duch has become a born-again Christian, apparently ready to confess his sins. When he was discovered in 1999 by journalists he admitted at length to ordering and taking part in atrocities. Comparing himself to St. Paul, he told the journalists, “After my experience in life I decided I must give my spirit to God.”
When the trials begin, his testimony could be damaging to some of his fellow defendants.
Ironically, Duch was appearing before the panel of five judges to lodge an appeal, stating that his human rights had been violated as he’s been held without trial for over eight years. Not surprisingly, the host of Cambodian spectators who were watching on closed circuit TV merely laughed.