Defense counsel Terry Munyard continues to question expert witness for the prosecution, Dr. Stephen Ellis:
Def: You touch on the use of mercenaries by the SL government – a company called Executive Outcomes. You also reference someone called Fred Rindel, formerly a colonel for the South African Defense Force – who had worked with UNITA in Angola. Did Executive Outcomes also work for UNITA before working for the Angolan government?
Wit: No. Executive Outcomes was formed by soldiers who had served in specialized units of the SA defense forces. Many of them had worked for UNITA as individuals. After Executive Outcomes was formed, the company worked for the Angolan government.
Def: Mr. Rindel had worked for the South African army during the apartheid regime and UNITA. By the late 1990s he had a contract to work for Taylor’s government?
Wit: Yes, it’s detailed in one of the UN panel reports.
Def: His contract was to train Liberian forces, specifically the Anti-Terrorist Unit?
Wit: His September 1998 contract certainly included that.
Def: It’s not unusual to find individuals who worked for anti-black governments to later work for black governments?
Wit: It’s not unusual at all.
Def: That he was a mercenary does not make his work with the Liberian government sinister?
Wit: It depends on the nature of the contract.
Def: We know today many security operatives are privately employed in Iraq.
Def: Rindel was working for the government in Liberia. In 1998, ECOWAS had set up a committee of five?
Def: What was the Committee of Five’s role?
Wit: The elected government of SL had been overthrown, so ECOWAS set up the committee of five presidents.
Def: From which countries?
Wit: Can’t say off the top of my head, but certainly Nigeria, Ghana…
Def: Liberia, Burkina Faso..later Togo…
Def: (References document) I think this was an earlier attempt at peace in Sierra Leone prior to the Lome Accord. At the time of this document, agreed in Conakry in October 1997, the Committee of Five appears to have been set up already. Liberia was part of the Committee of Five?
Wit: I don’t see that here, but I take your word for it.
Def: President Taylor was given a particular position within the Committee of Five?
Wit: I don’t know. I don’t claim to be an expert on the Committee. Its work was quickly bypassed due to events on the ground in SL.
Def: It attempted to revive peace talks in 1999?
Wit: W. African states were trying to reach agreement among themselves on a way forward.
Def: It wasn’t until Taylor’s election that he took on a formal role in this committee in ECOWAS?
Wit: Yes, from his election, the Liberian government was recognized once again.
Def: He was given a leading role to negotiate a peace in Sierra Leone in 1999?
Def: Between 1997-1999 we’d had the coming and going of the AFRC government and the attack on Freetown principally by AFRC, and Lome.
Wit: And the involvement of Jesse Jackson as a representative of the US president was very important.
Def: Yes, he was sent in an effective way?
Wit: I don’t know if we can say it was effective, but he was involved in a high-profile way.
Def: (References document – Agreement on cease fire in Sierra Leone, May 1999) We see that president Tejan Kabbah of SL and Jesse Jackson met with Foday Sankoh under the auspices of Pres. Eyadema of Togo. It’s obvious that Sankoh was present at that meeting. Johnny Paul Koroma wasn’t present?
Wit: It doesn’t say he was.
Def: You’d be aware had he been there, as would have Taylor, had Koroma been there? We had evidence from a previous witness that Koroma was there.
Wit: I was not present in Lome and have no recollection of Johnny Paul Koroma was there. The piece of paper we’re consulting is from two months prior to Lome.
Def: It’s what led to Lome, and Taylor played a significant part?
Wit: The most significant actors behind Lome were Taylor and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Def: Prior to Lome, there was some division in the RUF?
Wit: Yes, esp. since Sankoh’s arrest in 1997. At the TRC report states, even when Sankoh returned in 1999, the divisions remained.
Def: As part of the arrangements for Lome, the Liberian government provided a guesthouse for the RUF leadership in a very public way?
Wit: Yes, it was all very official.
Def: Sankoh and Bockarie then fell out and Bockarie wanted to delay disarmament?
Def: Bockarie wouldn’t agree to the pace of disarmament?
Wit: I’ve heard that.
Def: When he didn’t agree, Tejan-Kabbah and Taylor agreed that Bockarie would be allowed to leave SL to go live in Liberia?
Wit: I don’t know about that.
Def: Kabbah and UN forces provided an open corridor for Bockarie and his entourage to leave, on the basis that the US would give him a scholarship to study at Fort Bennett Mil. College in the United States?
Wit: I wasn’t aware of that.
Def: This was a means of removing Bockarie from Sierra Leone?
Wit: I said yesterday that after Lome, this was the high point of Taylor’s strategic influence in West Africa. Part of Lome’s significance. There was shock in international political circles about RUF being given a role in government at Lome. There were factional divisions within the RUF. By common consent, the judgement of Jesse Jackson was lamentable. He referred to Sankoh as the Nelson Mandela of Sierra Leone. Sankoh spoke with journalists and an American diplomat, describing how Tejan Kabbah was forced into the agreement. There was great international pressure on Kabbah to attend Lome. Sankoh became the top diamond offiical in Sierra Leone. We had a diplomatic confirmation of the RUF’s importance in Sierra Leone. The trajectory could have made Sankoh president. This made the ruptures within the RUF worse. There were intense factional conflicts that Jesse Jackson and Charles Taylor were attempting to control these.
Def: In any event, there was peace for a limited time.
Wit: I wouldn’t say peace, but there was less fighting for a period.
Def: The TRC concluded that from 2000 onwards, the RUF was in “terminal decline” according to your report.
Wit: Yes, mainly due to the arrival of UK troops in May 2000, and the arrest of Foday Sankoh in May 2000.
Def: Going back to 1999: The LURD emerged in 1999, and incursions had begun in 1998.
Wit: I can’t agree entirely with those dates. It’s not clear to me exactly when they were formed. I’ve seen documents suggesting LURD formation in 1999, and some saying there were precursors in 1998, with some claims that Nigerian Gen Kobe (ph) was involved.
Def: Guinea and what other countries sponsored LURD?
Wit: I think just Guinea.
Def: (References a page of Ellis’s report) You say that the growth of insurgent forces LURD and MODEL, backed by outside governements, put Taylor under pressure. Which governments were these?
Wit: From 1998 there were Liberians in exile, forming themselves into groups with names, undertaking military activities. LURD was supported by Guinea. MODEL was formed at a later date and was supported by Cote d’Ivoire. Both had other support. LURD in particular had support from the US government.
Def: The Clinton government that had sent Jesse Jackson and effectively re-engaged?
Wit: Jackson’s intervention had not been effective. In 1990 Liberia had descended into chaos in part because the US failed to intervene. The American government was never involved at a high level throughout the early 1990s. With the appointment of Rev Jesse Jackson, I think in 1998, we had a real confusion. This title, Special Envoy for Democracy in Africa, caused confusion. It wasn’t clear where he fit into the US hierarchy. So when he came to the region and made pronouncements about US policy, it wasn’t clear to what extent these reflected the views of the president, State Department or Pentagon.
Def: On Jan 6, 1999, Freetown was attacked?
Wit: Between the Lome Peace Accord of July 1999 and a year later. The UK and US governments had identified Taylor as a key factor behind the RUF. Because the UK had expended substantial capital in stabilizing Sierra Leone, it intervened in May 2000. The US government became more involved for different reasons, particularly after the attacks on Guinea in 2000-2001.
Def: Regarding the attack on Freetown in January 1999, you write that there is contradictory evidence regarding the roles of various elements in the invasion. Some sources suggest Liberian-based mercenaries were involved in the planning. Africa Confidential reported Rindel’s involvement. Human Rights Watch reported the involvement of armed white men. You were no longer editing Africa Confidential?
Def: Who are the sources saying that Liberian-based mercenaries organized the attack?
Wit: Africa Confidential, Human Rights Watch.
Def: Their research wasn’t as comprehensive as that of the TRC?
Def: The TRC report states that the invasion was organized by renegade soldiers – the AFRC, with some elements of the RUF not acting at the orders of their high commands. That’s now a widely held view?
Wit: I don’t have satisfactory knowledge of the invasion. It’s clear that AFRC and RUF were involved and that atrocities were committed. There’s a body of opinion that the attack had been well-planned and organized. It seems to me that it was well organized. The TRC suggests the AFRC and RUF were not well coordinated. There are also other views within the very lengthy TRC report. The TRC is authoritative, but its findings here are unclear.
Def: The TRC finds that it was essentially AFRC, with some RUF involvement?
Wit: I wouldn’t say there. There is ambiguity about the level of organization. If you go through through the TRC report, you’d find other quotations that take a slightly different view.
Def: The program of mass amputations started as the AFRC and RUF counterparts were retreating from Freetown in 1999?
Wit: I don’t think so. I was there in May-June 1998, and saw amputees who were victims of a wave of attacks. I plotted them over time and location. There was clearly a plan. From the beginning of the Freetown invasion, there were amputations. Some of the amputees report they were amputated by people who said that they were the “Cut-Hand Unit”.
Def: In his book, Mr. Gberie makes the point that although the RUF started amputations earlier in the war, mass amputations were only used after the challenge by the CDF. He writes of mass amputations “after 1998” conducted after the Freetown invasion.
Wit: Gberie’s one of the best Sierra Leonean journalists in the period. I don’t think there are precise figures on which groups conducted what percent of the amputations. Clearly AFRC and RUF conducted amputations.
Def: The Nigerian forces employed to drive out the attackers in Jan 1999 themselves carried out executions and atrocities.
Wit: That’s right, and it’s highlighted in “Cry Freetown”. They were still ECOMOG.
Def: They executed people in hospitals?
Wit: I’m not familiar with that particular incident. Clearly atrocities were committed.
Def: Who is Mike O’Flaherty?
Wit: I know him personally. He was a human rights officer in SL and is now a professor.
Def: (References a document)
Presiding Judge Doherty asks about protective measures regarding O’Flaherty and his report. She says this must be clarified before the contents of this report may be used as the basis for questioning the witness. Prosecutor Brenda Hollis tells the court that O’Flaherty’s name may be used, but his report was filed confidentially and that protective measures apply to its contents. If defense wants to ask about the contents of the report, court must go into closed session. The court is now reviewing a document that determined which protective measures apply. Defense says that he can continue questioning without specifically referencing the report or saying where his information is coming from. Judge Doherty replies that at this point it would be apparent that he was referring to the confidential report. Court will now go into closed session so that the questioning with regard to the confidential report may proceed. Video and audio of the trial to the media center has been suspended while this happens. Our live-blog will resume shortly.