5:00 Corinne Dufka discusses atrocities in Sierra Leone

Court is back in session following the lunch break.

Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura continues to question  prosecution witness Corinne Dufka.

Pros: (Refers to other pages in the witness’s report): You confirmed that this section of your report covers human rights abuses against civilians in Liberia.  Which HRW report is used to source this section?

Wit: “Back to the Brink“, published in 2002, along with a few shorter HRW documents.  The other is a HRW press release from July 29, 2002:

Pros: What other documents did you use for this section?

Wit: One was a document: “Liberian Refugees in Guinea: Refoulement, Militarization of Camps, and other Protection Concerns“, published in November 2002.  The other is a press release from July 29, 2002.

Pros: (Refers to appendix 2 of the witness’s report to the court)  These are other publications you prepared for Human Rights Watch.  Which did you produce yourself, and which did you not?

Wit: (witness goes through a list of HRW reports on West Africa and indicates her level of involvement in researching and writing each)

Pros: (Refers to a page of the witness’s report) You deal with the topic, the sub-regional dynamic of West African conflicts.  You try to identify patterns in the conflicts of West Africa.  What are the common patterns in these conflicts?

Wit: This section is based on the HRW report “Youth, Poverty and Blood” from 2005.  First, I would like to speak about the motivation for conducting the research in that report.  We were trying to understood the roots of exceptional brutality in the conflicts.  I was trying to identify what kind of oversight commanders exerted on the military forces to mitigate human rights abuses.  I was trying to identify government failures in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the role that betrayal of their own populations played in the rise of armed conflict.  I interviewed 60 ex-combatants who had fought in at least two armed conflicts in the region.  The findings were numerous.  I found a striking lack of distinction between military and civilian targets, a tendency to mete out collective punishment against populations believed to be supporting the opposing force.  There was little effort by commanders to instill discipline or hold accountable members of warring factions implicated in human rights abuses.  Few armed combatants were trained in the laws of war.  Many who joined the first armed conflict did so after being forcefully recruited, but they joined the second conflict for financial reward.

Pros: Your report came out in April 2005.  Your research covered which years?

Defense argues that the prosecution is leading the witness.  Judge Doherty agrees and sustains the objection.

Pros: Did your report cover years before 2005?

Wit: Yes.  There was historical context back into the 1980s and covered events into 2004.

Pros: Did you have findings on common root causes of these conflicts?

Wit: Yes.  Generally the governments were characterized by state failure, mass corruption, inequitable distribution of resources and impunity.

Pros: (References another section of the witness’s report) The caption is Liberians involvement in the war in Sierra Leone between 1991-2002.  Which earlier HRW publications were used for this section?

Wit: These interviews here were recorded during investigations for the HRW report “Youth, Poverty and Blood”.

Pros: How are report findings brought to the attention of parties named in the report?

Wit: Our reports are disseminated widely.  We send the report to the parties in question – state and non-state actors, as well as perpetrators and those who support them.  We send copies to the government, UN, diplomatic missions in the US or England, or France.  We send the report to national and international journalists, and usually there are many articles on the report, characterizing the findings.  Often this is followed up by meetings with key actors.

Pros: You mention that between 1989-2006, there were 72 publications from HRW on Liberia?

Defense objects that Prosecutor Bangura is leading the witness again.  Judge Doherty again sustains the objection and tells the prosecutor not to lead the witness.

Pros: How many documents has HRW produced on Sierra Leone and Liberia?

Wit: HRW produces reports, briefings, press releases, op-eds and letters.  On Sierra Leone, we have produced 72 or 73 documents.  In the case of Liberia, HRW has produced 72-73 documents.

Pros: Were the documents sent to the government of Liberia?

Wit: Our usual practice is to send the documents either directly to the government, or to the diplomatic missions of that government.  Liberia’s mail system is dysfunctional and other communications were difficult.  To the best of my understanding, those reports were sent to the diplomatic mission in the United States.  HRW staff in NY and Washington were responsible for that.

Pros: Do you recall specific cases where there were recommendations to the Liberian government regarding Sierra Leone?

Wit: Yes, regarding the arms embargo.

Pros: (Refers to the HRW report “Sowing Terror”)  Please read the recommendation in that report.

Wit: (Reading) The government of Liberia should respect the interanational arms embargo against the AFRC/RUF.  Taylor should facilitate border monitoring by ECOMOG and arrest arms traffickers in Liberia. 

Pros: This is in regard to findings in the report?

Wit: Yes, people we interviewed discussed support of Liberia for AFRC/RUF combatants.

Pros: Was this document shared with the government?

Wit: That would be the intent of our organization – to share it with the Liberian embassy in Washington, DC or to the UN mission in New York.

Pros: (Refers to a section of witness’s report)  You said this part is sourced primarily by the report “Sowing Terror” from July 1998.  What was the background to this at the time?

Wit: All of our reports include a background section to cover recent history and the context in which the abuses take place.  We gave a brief history of the war in Sierra Leone.  From there we lead into the findings of the report, primarily covering events after the RUF/AFRC were dislodged from power.  It concentrates on abuses from February-June 1998. 

Pros: Who investigated this report?

Wit: Scott Cambell researched and wrote the report.  He was a consultant for the Africa Division at the time.

Pros: Does the title of the report reflect on the nature of the atrocities committed in SL at the time?

Wit: Yes.  The interviews showed that the element of fear and terror among the civilian population was a prominent feature.  There were abuses by all sides, but primarily by AFRC/RUF forces retreating north.  HRW tries to use the voice of the victim and witness themselves in order to increase the account’s credibility.  So this report also includes many testimonies to terror.  The random targeting of individuals and the sheer number of people affected, the targeting of all kinds of people – all contributed to the climate of terror.  This report concentrates on Kono District, including Koidu Town, Tombudu, Sinekoro, Jabwema Fiama, and Njaiama Sewafe, Gbense, and others. 

Pros: What kind of abuses are catolgued as happening here?

Wit: This report documented abuses by both warring sides.  Most were committed by the AFRC/RUF.  Others were committed by the CDF (primarily the Kamajors) and ECOMOG.  AFRC/RUF atrocities included mutilations to punish civilians for their perceived support of the government, the rape of women and girls as young as ten, abduction – including of girls and women for sexual slavery, disembowelment of pregnant womens, massacres and extrajudicial executions.  CDF atrocities on a much lesser scale included the execution of AFRC and RUF prisoners, including burning them alive, cannibalism, use and recruitment of child soldiers.  ECOMOG atrocities included the indiscriminate shelling of Freetown.

Pros: In what context were RUF/AFRC crimes committed.

Wit: There were two military operations: “Operation Pay Yourself” that included mass looting and pillaging.  There was also “Operation No Living Thing”.  These were after the RUF/AFRC were dislodged from political power, and they seemed to be retribution against civilians.  The investigations went on during these operations.  Most of the interviews with victims and witnesses were recorded in refugee camps in Guinea and Liberia.

Pros: In cataloguing crimes, you have referred to another report: “Getting Away with Murder, Mutilation and Rape“.

Wit: Yes, I researched and wrote it.

Pros: You state that between 1999-2001, you interviewed over 400 individuals, correct?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: Some of these were for this report?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: When was that report produced?

Wit: The report was researched in April-June 1999 and released in June 1999.  The report attempted to reconstruct what had happened during this intense period of abuses in Sierra Leone’s armed conflict: the invasion of Sierra Leone in January 1999.  The report was based on several hundred interviews with victims and witnesses.  In many cases I went house-to-house and street-to-street in downtown Freetown.  I also interviewed government officials, military officials, morgue officials, international officials, and others.  The vast majority of the interviews were with victims and witnesses.  The research suggested that the attack on Freetown was an attempt to retake political power.  They started by launching an offensive on towns in the east and north: Kono, Makeni, Masiaka and Waterloo, before coming into Freetown.  The report includes the takeover of many parts of Freetown and the ensuing three-week occupation of those areas by rebel forces.

Pros: Could you discuss which atrocities you identified during this period?

Wit: The offensive marked the most intense, concentrated human rights abuses in Sierra Leone’s war.  It was characterized by systematic and widespread abuses of many kinds, perpetrated against men, women and children of all ages.  There were numerous massacres of civilians by rebel forces, including a massacre of 60 individuals in a mosque in Kissi, an attack on a family on January 6, 1999 in which all six children and a grandchild were all gunned down, an attack on a church in Wellington, and another massacre of 17 in Kissi.  People appear to have been targeted at random.  Infants were thrown into fires, people’s houses were set on fire with people in them.  People were thrown from the third floor of a building.  We documented 97 mutilations, including 26 double-arm amputations, amputations of children.  The youngest was 18 months old.  There was widespread and systematic sexual abuse against girls and women.  There were subjected to repeated and brutal sexual abuse.  Women had objects put in their vaginas, including burning word.  Rebels went to Connaught Hospital and kicked patients out of their beds, made the hospital their base, and destroyed and looted the medicine.  There was massive looting and pillage.  Many people were killed during the repeated looting when they no longer had anything to give.  Parents who refused to hand over their children were killed.  When the rebels were pushed out of the city, there were mass abductions by the rebels.  The SL government and UNICEF report that there were over 1,000 abductions.

Pros: Did you catalogue any instances of amputations?

Wit: Yes, we catalogued 97 amputations and 26 double-amputations.  I interviewed hospital workers and morgue workers.

Pros: Were there patterns that emerged in the commission of these crimes?

Wit: One pattern was the use of terror.  The random nature of the attacks created a climate of complete and utter terror.  People were attacked when searching for food, they were pulled from there houses.  There was no apparent targeting.  They were being blamed for supporting President Tejan-Kabbah, even though they usually weren’t asked first.  Sometimes the rebels forced the parents to decide which of the children would be killed.  On one occasion, 30 people were killed after the rebels dressed up in ECOMOG uniforms and executed those who cheered them.  Rebels ambushed one individual trying to claim the body of a loved one.  There was a pattern of people being burned in their houses.  Rebels sometimes positioned themselves outside the house and shot those trying to escape.

Pros: Were particular groups targeted?

Wit: Most victims were targeted at random, but there were three targeted groups: Nigerian nationals were targeted because of Nigerian-dominated ECOMOG; unarmed, off-duty policemen; and journalists.

Pros: Did your research identify commanders, and what role they played?

Wit: My research did not identify a strict line of command.  But many of the atrocities appeared to be well-organized.  Many witnesses noted the presence of someone appearing to be a commander.  Many of the girls taken into sexual slavery were taken to command centers.  There appeared to be involvement and knowledge on the part of commanders.  The wide scale of the atrocities would make it difficult to argue that they were unaware that abuses were happening.

Pros: Were there indications of planning or premeditation?

Wit: Yes, two days before the massacre at the Rogbalan Mosque in Kissi, there was a warning.  I interviewed around ten witnesses.  They explained that the rebels came to that place every day to abduct women and girls.  Two days before, the rebels came and said there would be a massacre.  This was when ECOMOG was pushing from downtown Freetown into Kissi and Calaba Town, so civilians were trapped by firing.  Some of the women and girls who had been abducted and raped told them “this is a nice one for the commander”.  Scores of girls were taken to State House and other places.

Pros: Did your research identify particular units involved?

Wit: Yes.  There was the “burn-house unit”, the “cut-hand unit”, the “kill-man, no-blood unit”, and others.

Pros: What was the flow of atrocities during the offensive?

Wit: Atrocities were committed throughout the atrocities, from January 6 to the end of the month.  Abductions and sexual abuse were constant throughout.  Amputations and mutilations accelerated from the 17th or 18th onward, as the rebels came under increased military pressure.

Pros: Which locations were at the center of most of these abuses?

Wit: We documented atrocities in downtown Freetown (Pademba Road, State House, Upgun, Kissy Road, PZ) and the neighborhoods of Calaba Town, Kissy, Wellington, Brookfields, Kru Bay, Susan’s Bay, King Tom, and others.

Pros: Did you obtain figures in support of your findings?

Wit: Yes, I consulted hospital records, government ministries, UN organizations and others.  Some of those statistics are included in the report.  The Ministry of Social Welfare showed 573 adults as abducted and UNICEF reported 1,500 abducted children.  The Housing Ministry registered 5,788 homes as destroyed by fire.  In Calaba Town, 80% of residential structures were left in ashes.  I couldn’t come up with a definitive number for civilian deaths, in part because rebels were also killed.  There were mass graves, and some families buried their family members in their compounds. 

Pros: You mentioned that one group was mainly responsible for the atrocities?

Wit: Yes, the vast majority were committed by the rebels.  But ECOMOG, sometimes working with Sierra Leone police or Kamajors were involved in executing suspected collaborators.  Many were perpetrated in the presence of ECOMOG officers up to the level of captain.  On January 11 in Connaught Hospital, ECOMOG stormed the hospital and found 28 rebels, including 2 child combatants.  There were all executed.  Most ECOMOG killings were committed at checkpoints and in mop-up operations. 

Pros: (Refers to another page of the witness’s report) You’ve referred to other events during the war in Sierra Leone covered by HRW.  You refer to attacks on Masiaka and Port Loko?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: What is the source for this?

Wit: These incidents are documented in a press release that I wrote, which was released in May 1999.  The material in this press release was based on interviews with 20 civilians in Freetown hospitals who described attacks in Masiaka and Port Loko.

Pros: What was the background to these events?

Wit: These attacks were committed by rebels who had withdrawn from Freetown in late January/early February.  Civilians were killed, raped, mutilated, abducted, set on fire, and had their limbs amputated.  One person from the village of Magdigba described how 12 civilians there had been hacked to death by the rebels.

Pros: (Refers to another page of the witness’s report) You report on incidents in Kambia and Koinadugu?

Wit: Yes.  Some of these occurred in late 1999, after the peace agreement.  Others were committed after the breakdown of the May 2000 peace accord.  There were amputations on a lesser scale, forced recruitment of children, killings, and rape, primarily in the northern districts of Sierra Leone.  The districts were Kambia, Koinadugu, Port Loko, Tonkolili and Bombali. There were attacks in the towns of Lunsar, Makeni, Okra Hills and others.

Pros: Did HRW produce any publications on this at the time?

Wit: Yes, a letter to the United Nations highlighting these atrocities.  The rebels tried to forcibly recruit children from villages around Makeni and Kabala.  This was after the breakdown of the May 2000 peace agreement.  In one case in Kabala, during a recruitment operation, there were some 40 civilians rounded up and marked with a knife on their chests with the letters RUF.  There were a number of boys and girls in the group.  There were rapes, mutilations and amputations.  I documented the execution of three individuals, gang rape, and other atrocities.

Pros: Regarding the marking of young men with the letters RUF, how widespread was this practice.

Wit: It was not particularly widespread, but I documented numerous cases over the years.  An American aid agency provided plastic surgery after 2001 to try to remove or lessen the extent of this tatooing.

Pros: (Refers to other pages of the witness’s report)  You mention three different situations also covered by three additional HRW reports.  These reports suggest the involvement of other groups in Sierra Leone?

Wit: Yes, these deal with the Sierra Leonean government, the Guinean military, and Kamajor gunmen.

Pros: In what context?

Wit: We documented several helicopter gunship attacks by the Sierra Leone government carrying out indiscriminate attacks against the rebel-held towns of Makeni, Magburaka and Kambia.  These resulted in civilian deaths and woundings.  They targeted markets.  In response to RUF attacks on Guinea, in late 2000 and early 2001, the Guinean military launched attacks into RUF-held Sierra Leonean territory.  They committed abuses in the course of these attacks, indiscriminate air attacks, rapes, and even amputations of some captured RUF fighters.  The third document regards Kamajor attacks launched from Guinean refugee camps.  These also included atrocities.

Court is adjourning for the day.  The trial will resume tomorrow morning at 9:30.  Our coverage resumes at 10:00 (9:00 in Sierra Leone and Liberia).