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Tribunal says ex-Khmer Rouge official will detail atrocities

Ex-prison chief is indicted in 1970s torture

Tourists viewed a memorial yesterday filled with more than 8,000 skulls of victims of the Khmer Rouge on display at Choeung Ek, a 'Killing Fields' site in Cambodia. Tourists viewed a memorial yesterday filled with more than 8,000 skulls of victims of the Khmer Rouge on display at Choeung Ek, a "Killing Fields" site in Cambodia. (chor sokunthea/reuters)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The former chief of a Khmer Rouge prison is willing to testify about the communist regime's atrocities that led to an estimated 1.7 million deaths in the 1970s, Cambodia's genocide tribunal said yesterday.

Duch, 64, also known as Kaing Guek Eav, became the first top Khmer Rouge figure to be indicted in connection with offenses committed when the Khmer Rouge held power from 1975 to 1979. He was charged and detained by order of the UN-backed international tribunal's foreign and Cambodian judges.

Duch headed the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, where about 16,000 suspected enemies of the regime were tortured before being taken out and executed on what later became known as the "killing fields" near the city. Only about a dozen prisoners are thought to have survived. The site is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

The judges' detention order, posted on the tribunal's website, said Duch had acknowledged that he headed S-21 and was "ready to reveal the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge."

It also cited prosecutors' allegations that he presided over abuses against civilians including "arbitrary detention, torture and other inhumane acts, (and) mass executions."

"He is implicated by many documents and several witnesses," the detention order said.

The tribunal also said that one of the two lawyers expected to defend Duch is Francois Roux, a human rights activist from France best known for being on the defense team of Zacarias Moussaoui, a Moroccan-born Frenchman convicted in the United States of conspiring to commit terrorism and kill Americans in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Roux also defended four cases of genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Duch has been detained at a Phnom Penh military prison on separate war crimes charges.

The tribunal, officially known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, is expected to start trials early next year.

As many as one-fifth of Cambodia's citizens died as a result of the radical policies of the Khmer Rouge and their leader, Pol Pot.

Pol Pot died in 1998, but three of his senior-level colleagues are living freely in Cambodia, although in declining health: Nuon Chea, the movement's chief ideologue; Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister; and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state.

Prosecutors have recommended that five Khmer Rouge leaders be indicted, and all three are widely believed to be on their list, although no names besides Duch's have been released.