July 200, 2009
PHNOM PENH (Cambodia)) - A FORMER guard at the main Khmer Rouge torture centre wept in court Monday as he described how he feared his prison boss standing trial at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal.
Him Huy, 54, was giving evidence against Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch, who is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of around 15,000 people held at Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21.
'I did not dare criticise him (Duch). I was afraid I would be killed... Even when I saw him riding a bicycle towards me, I would find a place to get away from him,' Him Huy told the court.
'Frankly, when I see him it reminds me of the moment I worked with him. I was afraid of him. I did not dare look into his face. Even now I'm fearful of him,' he said, weeping.
At the start of his testimony on Thursday, the former guard recounted how he killed a prisoner in 1977 at Choeung Ek 'killing field,' under orders from either Duch or the prison chief's now-deceased deputy, Hor.
He told the court on Monday that Duch carried a pistol with him at all times and that the boss 'was rather gentle when he spoke, but he was very firm and meticulous.' Him Huy said also that he believed the jail chief had the power to release inmates, contradicting Duch's claims that he was under orders to have all prisoners killed.
'At S-21, nobody ordered him (Duch). It was only him that ordered other people,' Him Huy said.
The 66-year-old Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has accepted responsibility for his role governing the jail and begged forgiveness near the start of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
But he has consistently rejected claims by prosecutors that he held a central leadership role in the Khmer Rouge, and maintains he never personally killed anyone.
Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia. Up to two million people died of starvation, overwork, torture and execution during the 1975-1979 regime. --