Khmer Rouge Killer Comrade Duch Admits Crimes
The head of one of the Khmer Rouge's torture centres has admitted responsibility for crimes committed during the regime's four-year rule.
Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Comrade Duch, is on trial before a UN-backed tribunal in Cambodia. He is the first Khmer Rouge leader to face the tribunal; four more senior figures are awaiting justice.
"May I be permitted to apologise to the survivors of the regime, and also the loved ones of those who died brutally during the regime," Duch told the court.
"I ask not that you forgive me now, but hope you will later."
Comrade Duch is unusual among Khmer Rouge leaders in that he had admitted his guilt. Commentators say that his public admission of guilt, broadcast from the courtroom to the nation should carry greater weight with Cambodians.
Of the 14,000 people who passed through prison S-21, which Comrade Duch commanded, only about a dozen are known to have survived. On arrival, all inmates were presumed guilty of opposing Pol Pot's regime, torture and execution were almost inevitable.
Robert Petit, the prosecutor in the case, described how prisoners were "beaten with rattan sticks and whips, electrocuted, had toenails and finger nails pulled out, were suffocated with plastic bags forcibly tied over their heads and were stripped naked and had their genitals electrocuted".
However the 66-year-old said he was only following orders:
Although Duch confessed, he said he was not a decision-maker and described himself as a victim of the regime, maintaining that he was following orders from his superiors and that he and his family would have been killed had he not obeyed.
"I did that because I received orders from Angkar," he said, referring the regime's hidden power center. "Although I knew the orders were criminal, I never dared to question them because it was a life-or-death situation for me and my family."
Under the 1975-79 rule of the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge, up to two million people are believed to have been executed or died from starvation or overwork.