May 6, 2008
Former child soldier, witness TF1-143, completed his evidence this morning, as the Defense finished its cross-examination and the Prosecution conducted a brief re-examination. When the Prosecution sought to call its next witness, whom it said was under protective measures ordered by Trial Chamber I in the RUF trial, the Defense requested that the protective measures be lifted. After lengthy arguments and deliberations, the judges ruled in favor of the Defense and ordered that the witness testify in open Court – the latest in a string of decisions against the Prosecution with regard to witness protection issues. The Prosecution responded to the ruling by stating that it would not call that witness at all. Another protected crime-base witness, clearly upset, took the stand at the end of the day.
Cross-examination of former child soldier ends
The day began with Defense Counsel Terry Munyard continuing his cross-examination of prosecution witness TF1-143. Munyard focused his effort this morning on pointing out inconsistencies between the witness’s testimony and his prior statements to the Prosecution. Munyard also suggested that there had been tensions between the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).
Munyard questioned why the witness had originally told prosecutors he had been present at an explosion that killed AFRC commander SAJ Musa in December 1998, then later said he had been in the bush and only learned about it later from his immediate commander, and then had testified in Court that he had not been too far away when the explosion occurred. The witness responded that he had initially been afraid of the prosecution investigators, “because I thought they were hunting those of us who had taken part in the war.” He said he later believed their assurances that they wanted to bring peace to Sierra Leone and that he had nothing to fear. He testified that he did see the explosion.
Munyard asked whether there had been fighting between members of the RUF and SLA (Sierra Leone Army – which after the May 1997 coup was a term that could also mean AFRC) around the time of the explosion, clearly seeking to bolster the defense theory that the two factions were not well integrated. Munyard relied on a previous statement in which the witness told prosecutors that the RUF defeated the SLA, then entered into the town of Benguema. The witness said that there had been fighting, but it had ended by the time he reached Benguema barracks, which is where the explosion occurred. Judge Sebutinde asked whether the witness understood that the question referred to infighting between the AFRC and RUF. The witness said he was talking about government soldiers who had been defeated by RUF forces before his arrival at the barracks.
Munyard asked the witness when he had first met Adama “Cut Hand”, and the witness said it had been in Allen Town, on the outskirts of Freetown. Munyard cited prosecution notes from previous interviews with the witness in which he had said he had first met her in Koinadugu, where she was the commander of his Small Boys Unit – one called the “Cut Hand Group”. The witness said that he had corrected this in a later statement to the prosecution, and insisted that Adama Cut Hand had not been his commander until Freetown. Munyard asked why the witness had originally said something different, and the witness replied that he had not had peace of mind at the time.
Munyard continued reading from previous interview notes, citing a passage in which the witness recalled seeing various commanders at Waterloo, including Adama Cut Hand and Superman. The witness said he had not personally seen them there, but had heard that they had come from Makeni.
Re-examination of witness TF1-143
Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura conducted a brief examination of the witness. Bangura focused on underlining that the witness had made corrections to previous inconsistent statements, and re-establishing which accounts were final. The witness stated that he was not present at the explosion that killed SAJ Musa. He reiterated that he had only met Adama Cut Hand when the rebel forces entered Freetown. And he confirmed that he had made a correction to his earlier statement about seeing Superman in Waterloo, telling the prosecution in April 2008 that he never saw Superman.
The Trial Chamber released witness TF1-143 and asked the Prosecution to call its next witness.
Witness stripped of protective measures
Prosecutor Julia Baly called the next witness, TF1-215, and stated that this witness was subject to a protection order of Trial Chamber 1 in the RUF case from July 2004. She said that the witness should testify behind a screen and with use of a pseudonym. The judges questioned which witnesses in that ruling had been granted protective measures.
Defense Counsel Morris Anyah rose to make an application to the Court to rescind the protective measures for the forthcoming witness, arguing that the witness had appeared in a video disclosed to the Defense in March 2007 that had been publicly released following the July 2004 ruling on protective measures. Anyah further argued that ten years after the conflict there was a need to revisit earlier decisions on protection.
Prosecutor Baly replied that the Defense application to rescind protective measures was not timely, arguing that the Defense had known about this witness for a long time and had not challenged the protective measures until the last moment. Further, she argued that the existence of the video was irrelevant because the witness was not identified as such in the video. Finally, she referenced a decision by the judges from January 10 2008, which stated that there were potential threats to the security of witnesses; she said that the witness in question did fear for his own safety and that of his family.
After an hour of consideration by the judges, Court resumed with the bench requesting clarification from the Prosecution. Through the following back-and-forth it became apparent that the July 2004 decision referenced a list of 266 “category 1″ fact witnesses. Category 1 witnesses were further divided into subcategory A: victims of sexual crimes, subcategory B: former child combatants, and subcategory C: insider witnesses. The judges noted that this witness was on the full list of 266, but not assigned to one of the subcategories. The Prosecution stated that an overarching rationale for protection – insecurity in Sierra Leone – extended to all of the witnesses in category 1, and noted that this witness had indeed testified in the RUF trial under protective measures. A sceptical Judge Sebutinde said that she wasn’t concerned about whether the witness had testified under protective measures in the RUF trial, but wanted to know the rationale for protection. Defense Counsel Anyah argued that the Prosecution motion cited by Trial Chamber 1 in its decision of July 2004 was limited to the expressly defined categories of witnesses listed in two annexes. Witnesses, such as the one in question, who were not in those annexes should not have protective measures.
Court adjourned for lunch, and the judges deliberated for another hour. When Court resumed, Presiding Judge Doherty read the decision: that only witnesses in the two annexes were subject to the July 2004 ruling. The Defense motion granted, the Court ordered that the next witness testify openly, without protective measures. Prosecutor Baly responded by saying that the Prosecution would not call TF1-215.
Prosecution calls a crime-base witness
Prosecutor Shyamala Alagendra called the next witness, TF1-028. That witness was subject to the same protection order from July 2004, but was listed as a category 1A witness, to testify with use of only a pseudonym, blocked from public view, and using voice distortion. Court adjourned for 30 minutes while a technician set up the voice distortion mechanism.
When the session resumed late in the day, the witness was not on the stand. A Court officer reported that the witness was upset and needed a few more minutes to calm down. She also stated that the witness would be accompanied in Court by a support officer from the Witness and Victims Section. When the witness did take the stand, Judge Doherty said, “I hope you’re feeling better now”, to which the witness answered, “no”.
After having been sworn in, the witness began to tell her account. She said that she was a 42 year-old Sierra Leonean, uneducated, and of the Mandinka tribe. She said that in 1998, many people fled Freetown during the ECOMOG invasion to end the rule of the AFRC/RUF junta. She and her family left for Karina. At one point soldiers, whom she could not identify at first, came to Karina. She said they beat her elder brother and her 12 year-old nephew. The Court day ended at this point in her testimony.
Proceedings will resume tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.