Court is back in session following the lunch break. 

Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura continues to question expert witness for the prosecution, Stephen Ellis:

Pros: You were giving the court an idea of your experience during one of your visits to Sierra Leone.

Wit:  This was May-June 1998.  I met the ECOMOG commander, government ministers, Hinga Norman – head of the Civil Defense Force, some former RUF fighters – two or three young boys and girls, and some victims of amputations.

Pros: How widely have you traveled in SL?

Wit: I’ve traveled widely and to most of the main towns.  I don’t have much experience in the rural areas.

Pros: You mentioned that from 1986-1991, you were editor of Africa Confidential.  What were your responsibilities?

Wit: I commissioned, and sometimes myself investigated and wrote, articles for this bi-weekly publication.  It’s a specialized newsletter widely read by diplomats and businessmen concerned with Africa.  My job was also to make sure that we maintained the interest of our readers and made a profit.  We only had three staff.

Pros: You mentioned earlier that you testified in the Gus Kouwenhoven case.  What sort of expert evidence did you give?

Wit: It was fairly minor.  I was asked what I knew about Mr. Kouwenhoven’s activities in Libeira during the 1990s, the basis for which I knew that, had I ever visited his facilities in Liberia.

Pros: This report for the Special Court covers 1997-2000 and how Liberia affected Sierra Leone?

Wit: Yes, this covers events after those covered in the book that I wrote.

Pros: What is the scope of your research for the report?

Wit: I was asked to concentrate on the period 1997-2000, but the report also has information into 2003.  I was asked about events in Liberia and how they affected Sierra Leone.

Pros: Turning to the contents of the report (references a particular page): You have made a finding here that between 1987-1989, Taylor became acquainted with Sankoh at a Libyan military camp.  Taylor organized the NPFL, including not only Liberians, but also Gambians and Ghanaians who saw themselves as pan-Africans.  Taylor’s association with the conflict in Sierra Leone can be traced to his acquaintance with SL revolutionaries in Libya.  Did these revolutionaries continue to see themselves as Pan-African revolutionaries?

Wit: I think so, yes.

Pros: Was there a transition over time?  Was it just that bond that tied them?

Wit: Some Africans have held the idea since the 1940s or 1950s that a Pan-Africanist armed movement could free the continent from colonialism and neo-colonialism.  That idea is still held today.  That was very much the idea in these Libyan camps.  Various African countries would be liberated from colonial or neo-colonial governments.  War started in Liberia in Dec 1989.  Some had a sympathetic view at the time as this being the start of a revolution.  Over time, many who held that sympathy changed their views as information became known about RUF atrocities.  Those inclined to sympathize with the movements in Liberia and Sierra Leone became disenchanted. 

Pros: (Referring to another page) You say Taylor’s influence grew across W. Africa throughout the 1990s.  How much influence did he have through armed forces outside Liberia?

Wit: The NPFL was organized outside Liberia and attacked Liberia at Christmastime, 1989.  Within a few days, it became known that a war had begun.  It was known to various people in W. Africa that the group had support from Libya, Burkina Faso, certain circles in Ivory Coast.  This caused some governments in the region to become nervous.  They thought this might be some sort of attempt at pan-Africanist militancy.  The fact of external support became apparent.

Pros: You mention that Foday Sankoh was a popular person in an NPFL camp in Liberia?

Wit: No.  He wasn’t popular there.  Sankoh was spending a lot of time in Liberia.  That’s the background to the start of teh war in Sierra Leone in 1991.

Pros: That’s the stage from which Sankoh launched his war into Sierra Leone?

Wit: A number of W. African governments were aware that the invading party included people of various nationality – some had been trained in Libya or Burkina Faso.  Gambians who had been involved in a coup attempt were involved.  They feared if a revolutionary government took hold in Liberia, conflict would spread.  In a way, that’s what happened.

Pros: Sankoh and the RUF were noted for their atrocities, correct?

Wit: Yes, but let’s add nuance.  I’ve tried to find out when the amputations began.  There are accounts from as early as 1991-1992.  The tactic wasn’t widespread until later.  It wasn’t altogehter whether amputations were mostly the work of the RUF or the AFRC.  There’s no doubt the RUF did ampuations.  Others did this also, especially the AFRC.  Other groups also committed atrocities.  It’s not clear to me who precisely encouraged or organized this tactic.

Pros: You said earlier you used the TRC report as a source but that you don’t agree with all of the findings.

Wit: I wouldn’t say I disagree with the TRC findings.  At certain points they might disagree with other analyses.

Pros: (Referencing witness’s report) You wrote: the TRC suggests the NPFL had a foundational effect for atrocities by the RUF in Sierra Leone (lists some types of atrocities).  You indicated some difference with the TRC in the case of amputations.  What about child soldiers?

Wit: I don’t disagree with the TRC.  The TRC doesn’t say clearly where the tactic of amputations came.  It’s true that the RUF gained a reputation for amputations.  I think the AFRC committed many of them.  The aspect of the TRC report revealed the extent of Liberian involvement in the first phase of the war, from 1991-1994.  I had been aware the war was launched from Liberia and that NPFL fighters had taken part.  The extent was a considerable surprise to me.  I think the TRC said 3,000 NPFL fighters were involved.

Pros: The practice of recruiting child soldiers was very common in the NPFL and RUF.  What link did you find between the two?

Wit: The extent of recruitment is difficult to determine accurately.  People, including children, became associated with the combatant groups in various capacities.  In Nimba County at the beginning of the war in Liberia, there were a lot of orphans who to some extent attached themselves to the NPFL.  Things developed from there.  The number of children armed and on the front lines was probably lower in Liberia than Sierra Leone.  Many were cooks, scouts, or had other jobs.  In the RUF, there was a very high proportion of children fighting.

Pros: What were your findings about rape regarding the NPFL and RUF?

Wit: It’s hard to get good information on this.  There were a lot of rapes in both places.  I’m not able to say much about the comparative extent of rape in the two cases, or say that the RUF learned from other conflicts.

Pros: You discuss abductions with the NPFL and later with the RUF.

Wit: In both wars it became clear that people might join an armed faction not exactly out of free will.  If a group came to attack an area, some might join out of sympathy, others to protect the area, or others because they were forced.  Many were asked to serve as porters for these movements.  It was difficult work with large, heavy loads.  Some preferred to fight.  Abduction is this kind of coercion.  Hostage-taking is different.  In Liberia, when it became clear that Nigeria was siding with Doe, the NPFL took hostages in order to pressure governments. In many cases the hostages were maltreated or killed.

Pros: In 2000 there was an abduction of UNAMSIL peacekeepers by the RUF?

Wit: Yes.  Throughout the RUF’s existence had abducted young people throughout the conflict.  In 2000 it took UN peacekeepers hostage.

Pros: You stated in your report that diamonds played a role in fuelling the conflict.  To what extent?

Wit: Control and marketing of diamonds came to be a very imporatant factor in the SL war.  I disagree with an analysis that the SL war was about diamonds from beginning to end.  It’s clear that at the beginning of the war it was not primarily about diamonds.  The nature of the war changed.  By the end of the 1990s, the control of diamonds was a key factor, because some of the combatants were able to sell diamonds to finance the continuation of the war.

Pros: You mean arms were purchased with diamond proceeds?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: How would you characterize this phenomenon?

Wit: All wars have to be financed.  In the case of SL, at a certain point diamonds became the main means of financing the RUF.  Some groups, including ECOMOG, would try to control the flow of diamonds in order to profit themselves.  There was a risk that the war might continue indefinitely.  It wasn’t always that way. 

Pros: By what means were the SL diamonds traded?

Wit: There’s a long history of diamonds being smuggled out of SL, at least back to the 1950s.  This went on during the 1990s, into the 2000s. The UN Panel of Experts provided very interesting information on this.  In 1997 there was a military coup that led to installation of a military junta. Therefore the UN imposed sanctions on that government.  There were so many reports that the sanctions were being broken through the border with Liberia.  That’s when the panel was established.

Pros: You rely on that report for some of your findings?

Wit: That report is very authoritative because of the exceptional degree of access the researchers had, and the authority of the UN.  Some of its findings were confirmed by other sources, which I’ve cited in my report.

Prosecution provides a copy of the Panel of Experts report to the witness.

Pros: Is this the document you’re referring to?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: You discuss in your report the involvement of foreign persons involved with the accused.  I want to ask about some of them.  Col Fred Rindel, Leonid Minin, Colonel Blau, Carl Albert?  What role did Fred Rindel play?

Wit: Rindel is a former colonel in the South African defense force under the apartheid government.  He had extensive experience with guerilla warfare.  According to a UN report, he received a contract to fight in Liberia.  Rindel gave one of the UN panels a full account of his contract, which dated from late 1998.  There were also some press reports of this.  I saw some correspondence in the archives of the Executive Mansion in Liberia, and I received confirmation from a South African general.

Pros: What was his association with the accused?

Wit: Rindel acknowledges signed a contract with Taylor’s government.

Pros; What role did Leonid Minin play?

Wit: Leonid Minin is a Ukrainian businessman.  He has a number of passports of different nationalities.  He’s an arms trafficker with an interest in diamonds.  He’s also involved in narcotics.  He was arrested in Italy but the trial was never completed, but there was a lot of information about him in the media.  The UN panel documented that he transported weapons to Taylor’s government.

Pros: Colonel ___ Blau (ph)? [First name unclear]

Wit: Another South African mercenary.  He had a contract to work in Liberia with Rindel.  Carl Alberts, the same.

Pros: You make reference to another UN Panel of Experts report, this one on Liberia.

Wit: Yes.

Pros: You cite this report in support of your finding that Taylor funneled weapons to the RUF in exchange for diamonds.

Wit: Yes.

Pros: In your report, you find that Taylor had a close personal interest in the RUF and that he supervised the diamond trade with them; that he had military relationships and imported weapons for the RUF.  You’ve cited numerous sources.  How authoritative is this conclusion.

Wit: It’s an overwhelming conclusion.  One source is book by Lester S. Hyman, a lawyer and an influential member of the Democratic Party in the United States.  He was engaged by the Liberian government.  Hyman writes that despite Taylor’s suggestions to the contrary, Taylor traded diamonds from the RUF for weapons sent to the RUF.  He was an employee of the Liberian government at the time.

Pros: In your report you discuss the Freetown invasion in January 1999 and knowledge of the accused about the scale of the atrocities at the time.

Defense objects: this paragraph addresses an issue to be resolved by the court, not the expert. Prosecution: witness is presenting material based on his research.  At the end of the day, the bench will have to determine the weight of this evidence.  He is not a witness of fact, but an expert witness who has provided a well-sourced report for the court to consider. 

Judges Sebutinde, Doherty and Lussick are conferring.

Judge Sebutinde: It is our unanimous view that your witness is presented as an expert witness.  His testimony should not go to the guilt or innocence of the accused.  If this report is admitted into evidence, we will be looking for opinions in it that do not go to the ultimate issue.  The objection is sustained.

Pros: Regarding the January 1999 events in Freetown, there is material you have sourced in your report that suggests knowledge by the accused?

Wit: Yes.  The main reason I’ve referred to the events of Jan 1999 is because this was an attack by RUF and AFRC.  It resulted in a great number of deaths and atrocities.  It had attention throughout the world.  Those who have investigated the organization of that attack come to some differing conclusions.  The SL TRC report suggested the attack might not be that organized.  That surprised me in light of other evidence. 

Pros: In addition to the TRC report, you’ve referred to press interviews with the accused.  (Refers the court and the witness to two documents.)  Those documents are news articles from the newspaper LeMonde.

Wit: One is an interview with the accused.  The other is more of an analysis by two journalists.

Pros: Referring to the interview, the accused responded to a journalist’s question: Taylor was asked: Should the RUF be part of the peace process.  Charles Taylor answered: “Only belligerents can make peace.  The RUF committed terrible atrocities.  People will have to answer for that.  The same people who caused that will have to be part of the solution.”  Was this a source you cited in coming to the view that he had knowledge about what happened in Freetown in January 1999?

Wit: Taylor was acknowledging the terrible atrocities taking place in Sierra Leone.

Pros: In your report, you mention that the RUF became split into two rival factions.  When this happened, Taylor’s most important ally was increasingly Sam Bockarie who relocated to Liberia in 1999.  Are there any indications of the level of trust between the accused and Sam Bockarie.

Wit: It became clear from UN reports, media reports, some interviews with Liberians close to the government at the time, that Bockarie was the most important RUF commander and had a direct relationship with Taylor.  It’s plain from many sources, including the TRC, that the war in SL changed in nature over time.  The RUF changed over time, too.  After Foday Sankoh’s arrest in Nigeria in 1997 and later transferred to Sierra Leone – he was not released until 1999- during his absence, there were factions and rivalries in the RUF.  It was in this time that Bockarie’s faction became close to the government in Liberia.

Pros: The accused benefitted from the presence of Bockarie in Liberia?

Wit: Yes.  Bockarie was more closely integrated into the command structures under the direct control of Taylor.  That was facilitated with the marketing of diamonds.

Pros: What is ECOMOG?

Wit: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) organized the ECOWAS Military Observer Group (ECOMOG). Many senior ECOWAS officials say the procedure for establishing ECOMOG was abusive.  Nigeria was the main force in its creation.

Pros: When was ECOMOG established?

Wit: In August 1990.  The war in Liberia started in December 1989.  It was proving divisive in West Africa as a whole because governments were aware that the NPFL contained members of different nationalities, and because Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire were backing it.  Nigerian President Babangida was very close with Liberian President Doe.  Nigeria wanted to intervene directly and felt it best to do so through a multilateral force, ECOMOG.  A senior American official told me that expectation had been that the US would intervene to end the Liberian war.  When the US government did not intervene, Nigeria took the initiative.

Pros: What was the ECOMOG mandate?

Wit: To enforce a cease-fire in Liberia, but there was no cease-fire.  ECOMOG was overwhelingly Nigerian.  There were also Ghanaians, Sierra Leoneans, and others.  It assembled in Freetown and went to Monrovia by sea.

Pros: What kind of reception did it have from the NPFL?

Wit: Taylor made clear he was hostile to ECOMOG and NIgeria, which was close to Doe.  There were reports that the Nigerian government had been supplying Doe with weapons.  Taylor had good grounds to feel the Nigerian government opposed him.

Pros; The accused felt hostile to Sierra Leone at the time?

Wit: Yes.  Before the war, Taylor went to Sierra Leone in order to launch the war in Liberia from Sierra Leonean territory.  That was refused.  Some have suggested Taylor may have borne a personal grudge against Sierra Leone because of this.  The ECOMOG force he opposed was based initially in Freetown, and the Nigerian air force used airfields in Sierra Leone.

Pros: Did that spark a reaction from the accused?

Wit: Yes.  He made clear, including in radion broadcasts he was very opposed to ECOMOG, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.  He expressed this vociferously.  When ECOMOG landed in Liberia it was opposed militarily by the NPFL.

Pros: Your report cites comments Taylor made to the BBC.

Wit: Correct.  On November 4, 1990, Taylor told Sierra Leoneans they would “taste the bitterness of war”.  Sierra Leoneans recall that to this date.  It’s in the TRC report too.  Nigerians were also being abused by the NPFL.  Large numbers of hostages were taken, some of whom have written memoirs.  Quite a few were killed.

Pros: How would you characterize the relationship between the accused and ECOMOG?

Wit: The relationship changed over time.  That was partly a reflection of the military and political situation, the ECOMOG commanders, and who was in power in Nigeria.  At the beginning, there was extreme hostility and heavy fighting in 1990.  Relations became much better during a period of cease-fire.  There was a flare up during the NPFL “Operation Octopus” to conquer Monrovia militarily.  ECOMOG from an early stage was in fact sponsoring various militias in Liberia and in Sierra Leone.  The situation became extremely complex.  It meant the countries that composed ECOMOG were often supporting various of the armed militias in Libiera and Sierra Leone.

Pros: How long was ECOMOG in Liberia?

Wit: Until 1998.

Pros: There was a coup in Sierra Leone in May 1997?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: ECOMOG intervened?

Wit: Yes.  There was confusion between ECOMOG and the Nigerian government.  ECOWAS never officially decided to deploy its troops in Sierra Leone for internal purposes.  They were deployed their to support their campaign in Liberia.  Nigerian troops were in SL in a bilateral capacity.  When the coup happened, the ECOWAS opposed the coup and didn’t recognize it.  A previous executive secretary of ECOWAS told me that really this was an ECOMOG deployment in Sierra Leone, and not really an action by ECOWAS.

Pros: In 1998 the junta was removed from power?

Wit: ECOMOG forces, overwhelmingly Nigerian, forcibly removed the junta from power in February 1998.

Pros: Many junta officials fled Freetown?

Wit: Yes.  Some fled inland.  Some tried to escape by air to abroad.

Pros: Did some try to land in Liberia?

Wit: Yes.  Some AFRC offiicals tried to land at an airport in Monrovia.  They were detained by ECOMOG.

Pros: Did that spark a reaction from the accused?

Wit: Yes.  By Feb 1998 Taylor was already president of Libiera. He claimed sovereignty over the country.  It’s not clear what the rights and obligations of ECOMOG in Liberia were.  AFRC officials escaped Nigerian forces in Sierra Leone and were detained by Nigerians in Liberia.

Pros: After removal of the SL junta, there was further fighting?

Wit: Yes.  The junta was removed in Feb 1998.  I visited SL in May-June 1998.  The main towns were under the control of ECOMOG or the restored democratically elected government of SL.  There was still violence in the north.  The ECOMOG commander dismissed this violence as minor.  I was meeting people coming into Freetown every day whose hands had been amputated.  It was clear that the RUF and AFRC were still able to perpetrate this kind of violence.  I heard they were conducting Operation No Living Thing.  To me, this looked like an effort to show that they were still in existence and still had the capacity to inflict damage.  I still think that’s why the amputations accelerated greatly.  Gen Kolbe and the SL governemt were telling me the problem had been solved.  Clearly it hadn’t been solved.

Pros: Earlier we discussed diamonds sold for weapons to fuel the war. 

Wit: Yes.

Pros: At about what time was the peak period for this?

Wit: There was a diamond trade of sorts in existence from the beginning of the war.  I’ve seen reports of RUF smuggling diamonds from as early as 1991.  The TRC identifies 3 key phases: 1991-1994, 1994-1997, and the period after 1997.  It’s clear that the diamond trade between SL and Liberia was really able to expand in the period after 1997.

Pros: At this time the RUF had increased capacity to attack ECOMOG and government forces?

Wit: In 1998 ECOMOG troops took contol in Freetown and the main centers of Sierra Leone.  RUF and AFRC were in fairly remote areas, including the border to Liberia.  At this stage, Taylor had control of all of the territory of Liberia, of which he was now president.

Pros: You refer to an accusation made by an ECOMOG commander in Sierra Leone, who accused Taylor supplying arms to the RUF in Sierra Leone using Ukrainian aircraft and crews?

Wit: Yes. 

Pros: And the RUF and AFRC had increased capacity to attack? 

Wit: Yes. The SL Army had effectively ceased to exist.  ECOMOG and the Civil Defense Force…

Presiding Judge Julia Sebutinde interrupts to say that the two-hour tapes used by the court to record the proceedings is running out.  Court will adjourn until tomorrow.  There is no morning session tomorrow, as the International Criminal Court will be using the courtroom for an unrelated event.  To compensate for the lost time, the Special Court will sit in the afternoons this Friday and next – time that is usually reserved for dealing with administrative matters.  Tomorrow, the trial resumes at 2:30.  With the half-hour delay to the media center here in The Hague, our coverage will continue at 3:00 (2:00 in Sierra Leone and Liberia).


  1. Mr Dennis Koker’s statenment could be said to be absolute truth. Anyone who was aware or followed or a victim of Liberian war and seeks justice and end to such gross inhumane acts in Africa would agree with Koker.Many people of West Africa are traumatised by Charles Taylor’s violations and abuses on fellow human being. Charles Taylor, we should not forget his collaborators deserve justice now.That would serve as a lesson.

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