Survivor Describes Torture in Jungle Prison
Origina report from Phnom Penh
09 April 2009
A second survivor of an early Khmer Rouge prison camp took the stand against jailed commandant Duch on Thursday, adding to a picture judges are trying to paint of methods that would later emerge at Tuol Sleng prison, where up to 16,000 Cambodians were tortured and sent to their deaths.
Ouch Sorn, 72, told judges of the Trial Chamber Thursday he had been tortured at a jungle prison known as M-13, run by Duch in Kampong Speu province before the Khmer Rouge rose to power.
“They put shackles in a line of five or six people, and prisoners were put in pits in the ground,” he said. “I saw they were tortured with their finger nails pulled by pliers and needles pushed underneath. Some of the prisoners were beaten to death with bamboo rods and hoes. Some of them were shot dead.”
Ouch Sorn described four people tied to poles, and Khmer Rouge security personnel killing one. “They killed people without pity,” he said. “It’s not like other nationalities who like their nation.”
Duch acknowledged only part of Ouch Sorn’s testimony, saying most of it was true but not all was based on reality.
Duch, now 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, went on to run Tuol Sleng prison, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, along with Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh and the Choeung Ek “killing fields,” where prisoners were taken for execution after “confessing.”
He faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder for his role at those three facilities. The Kampong Speu prison does not technically fall under the mandate of the tribunal, which is tasked with trying leaders of the regime while it was in power, between April 1975 and January 1979.
But judges are using testimony about the revolutionary prison to help understand the thinking that went into Tuol Sleng, a former high school, where people were electrocuted, dunked in water, strung by ropes and beaten, forced to confess their crimes against the Angkar, the Organization. Many were suspected traitors to the regime, sent from outlying areas as Khmer Rouge leaders became increasingly paranoid and began internal purges.