Court is back in session.
Prosecutor Christopher Santora continues to question witness Dennis Koker, who continues his account.
Pros: What are SBUs?
Wit: They were little children whose ages were 7-14 years old. They were fighting at the war front. SBU is Small Boys Unit.
Pros: In 2000 you went to work for the UN?
Wit: Yes, I was a maintenance officer for the UN military observers in Kailahun.
Prosecution has no further questions for the witness.
Defense counsel for Charles Taylor, Morris Anyah, begins the cross-examination of Dennis Koker. He has distributed copies of documents to the judges, prosecution and the witness.
Def: Yesterday you testified that you were born in Jimmi Bagbo?
Def: That’s in Bo District, Sierra Leone?
Def: That’s the southern province of Sierra Leone?
Def: The dominant language there is Mende?
Def: Yesterday you said you speak Mende and that you speak English?
Def: But you don’t speak it very well?
Wit: No, it’s not my language.
Def: You also speak Krio?
Def: You testified in the past before the Special Court in Freetown?
Def: In April 2005 you testified in the RUF case?
Def: That case involved Issa Sesay.
Def: In July 2005 you testified in the case involving Gullit, Alex Tamba Brima?
Def: In the Sesay case you testified in Krio?
Def: In the Gullit case you testified in English?
Def: In this case, you’re testifying in Mende?
Def: When you gave your first statement to the prosecution on March 26, 2003, you gave it at the UNAMSIL field office in Freetown?
Wit: I gave the statement in Kailahun, at the district office.
Def: You gave the statement to a person named Morie Lengor?
Def: You wrote your first statement by hand, yourself?
Wit: I did not write it.
Def: But you signed it.
Def: Are you comfortable testifying in Mende?
Def: You said your mother is from Kailahun?
Def: Although you were born in Bo District, you consider yourself to be from Kailahun District?
Def: Your mother’s name is Matoma Ngobeh?
Def: She’s from Ngobeh Compound in Kailahun District?
Def: You explained your family history on direct examination?
Def: Your mother was the eldest child of the Ngobeh family?
Def: Both of your grandfathers were paramount chiefs?
Def: When did you move from Bo District to Kailahun District?
Wit: What does that have to do with this case?
Judge Sebutinde: Just answer the question.
Def: You said you attended Government Secondary School in Bo, and that in 1991 when the war started, you joined the army in Kailahun. I want to know when you moved from Bo to Kailahun.
Wit: I used to go to Kailahun on holidays.
Def: When did you move there to join the army?
Wit: Before the war, in 1991.
Def: Which month?
Wit: January 1991.
Def: Were you at Ngobeh Compound in Kailahun?
Wit: I was in my mother’s compound.
Def: You said you joined the army in March or April 1991?
Def: At other trials, you indicated that you received some basic training at Moa Barracks at Daru, in Kailahun?
Def: Moa Barracks is near the Moa River?
Def: Your basic training started in August 1991 and went to August 1992?
Wit: No. It started in August 1991 and ended in April 1992.
Def: You testified before this chamber in the AFRC case in July 2005. (References a document.) Can you read the English?
Wit: I can try a little.
Def: I will read the text to you.
Def: You testified on July 18, 2005 in the AFRC case and took an oath to tell the truth?
Def: In July 2005, you were asked what year the rebel war broke out. You said 23 March 1991. You were asked how long your training lasted. You said one year, from August 1991 to August 1992. Do you recall that?
Wit: Yes, I remember.
Def: So when I asked whether your basic training lasted from August 1991 to August 1992, you were mistaken, were you not?
Judge Lussick points out that the questions are different. He was first asked about “training”. Today he’s being asked about “basic training”.
Def: For how long did you do basic training?
Wit: It lasted long. I even went for advanced training.
Def: For how long?
Wit: It started in 1991. Basic training completed in 1992. I did a lot of trainings. I can’t remember them all.
Def: One form of training you did do was artillery training?
Def: You were an artillery specialist?
Def: You fought while you were still in Kailahun District in the front lines?
Def: You manned a 120 heavy mortar at a place called Kortuma?
Def: You also fought at a place called Biima?
Def: That was in 1992?
Wit: Yes, sir.
Def: You were an artillery man there?
Def: Your brother Musa also fought at the front lines?
Wit: Musa what?
Def: Did you have a brother or someone you considered a brother, who fought and died at the front lines, named Musa?
Wit: I can’t remember that.
Def: Your mother was a refugee in Guinea after the war broke out in 1991?
Wit: She was shot at, but they missed her. She did not go to Guinea in 1991. In 1992 she was in Guinea and stayed there until 2004.
Def: Other family members of yours left for Guinea when the war broke out?
Def: To which countries did the rest of your family go when the war broke out?
Wit: Guinea. Some of them, I didn’t know where they went.
Def: Which other family members went to Guinea?
Wit: Others from Kailahun went to Guinea.
Def: Almost the entire Ngobeh family?
Def: At this time in 1992 you were not married, and you did not get married for the first time until 2002?
Def: In 1992 you had no children?
Def: When you went to Freetown in 1992, you were not married, had no children and most of your family was in Guinea?
Def: When did you arrive in Freetown?
Wit: April 1992.
Def: You went to work for Col. S.B. Jumo?
Def: At the orders of the SL Army?
Wit: Yes, it was my deployment.
Def: You couldn’t refuse that deployment.
Wit: I couldn’t refuse it.
Def: What rank did you have at this time?
Wit: I was a Private, the lowest rank.
Def: You were the private security officer for Col. Juma?
Wit: Personal security.
Def: You worked for him until the NPRC government was overthrown?
Def: That was on January 16, 1996?
Wit: You may be correct.
Def: After your work for the Colonel, you went to Juba Barracks in Freetown?
Def: There you worked in the electrical/mechanical engineering unit?
Def: Your primary job was as a sign writer?
Def: You were responsible for putting logos and decorations on vehicles?
Def: You also put crests on uniforms, and other such police insignia?
Def: This was similar to the work you did before joining the army?
Def: Did you go to Juba Barracks at the orders of the SL Army?
Wit: Yes, it was a posting.
Def: During a time of war?
Def: And you were a trained artillery officer being posted as a sign writer?
Def: In May 25, 1997, the AFRC coup, you were at Juba Barracks?
Def: And you walked out of a workshop of sorts?
Def: You said you lived in the workshop?
Wit: Yes. I did not have accomodation in the housing units of the barracks.
Def: You lived and worked out of the same place?
Def: There was fighting all over Freetown?
Def: While at Juba Barracks, did you ever hear a call for all SLA officers to appear at Lungi Airport?
Wit: I did not hear there. We did not have radio in the workshop. We had machines.
Def: But there wasn’t much work at this time, was there?
Wit: Not true. There was a lot of work.
Def: In April 2005 you testified in the RUF case. You testified that there was not a lot of work for you to do.
Wit: I am a worker and that place is a place of work. There was work every day. Maintenance.
Def: (References a document.) You have spoken to the prosecution on different occasions since becoming a witness at the Special Court, including May 2007?
Def: Notes from that interview with the prosecution: Witness states that he was still at the workshop and kept a low profile because he didn’t want to be sent to fight ECOMOG. There was little work to do. Did you say that to the prosecution?
Wit: Fighting was going on in Freetown.
Def: There was not a lot of work at the workshop then?
Wit: For me there was not much work as an artist.
Def: You knew Johnny Paul Koroma, Eddie Konneh, Major Dumbua?
Def: They were all AFRC?
Def: You knew them from the SLA?
Def: Were you aware at the time that members of the AFRC had essentially arrived from the SL Army?
Wit: What year are you referring to?
Def: The Junta period starting with the May 1997 AFRC coup.
Wit: At that time, the SL soldiers were still working.
Def: Some of them were already members of the AFRC?
Def: Koroma, Konneh and Dumbua?
Wit: Yes. Some SL Army officers were in the AFRC. Not most of them, some of them.
Def: But you didn’t join the AFRC then?
Def: In fact, you’ve never been a member of the AFRC?
Wit: I was not a member of the AFRC. I was a soldier. I became a member when we were sent into disarray.
Def: This morning you said you were a member of the RUF.
Def: Who was in disarray when you joined the AFRC?
Wit: ECOMOG came and captured Freetown. AFRC and some soldiers were in disarray. We all ran away and I followed Johnny Paul’s group and became part of them.
Def: When you were leaving Freetown in February 1998?
Def: When did you join the RUF?
Wit: I cannot give you a date. I was traumatized at that time. When I left Kono to Kailahun I became RUF. I didn’t have a calendar or watch.
Def: You said you left Kono to Kailahun in about March 1998.
Def: So it was March 1998 that you joined the RUF?
Def: So in February you were AFRC and in March you were RUF?
Def: To whom did you report in the AFRC?
Wit: To nobody. Everybody was a commander. Everybody was disgruntled.
Def: To whom did you report in the RUF as of March 1998.
Wit: Alex Alie, MP commander, based in Beudu.
Def: Why did you join the RUF?
Wit: I can explain. This government we’d voted for, we wanted democracy. Later we had problems with them. In Freetown they would have killed me. Maybe my friends in Kailahun will feel sorry for me.
Def: Your aunt was in the RUF?
Def: Your aunt told you to go to Kailahun?
Def: Saliu Konneh, the driver for Eldred Collins, was your cousin?
Def: He was RUF?
Def: Kailahun was the safest place in Sierra Leone for the RUF?
Def: Most of the soldiers who left Freetown with you left for Kailahun?
Wit: Some left for Liberia, some to Kabala, some to Kailahun.
Def: Did any go to Guinea?
Wit: I didn’t hear about Guinea.
Def: I want to retrace your trip from Freetown to Kono to Kailahun. You saw Johnny Paul Koroma running by you in February 1998, in Freetown. Are you sure you saw him at that time?
Wit: I saw him with a large crowd of people behind him. I followed them so that I could be saved.
Def: Eldred Collins was in that group?
Def: From Freetown you went to Tombu, then to Fogbo, then to Masiaka, then to Makeni – the home of Johnny Paul Koroma, then to Mortema?
Wit: All true except the last. After Makeni we went to Matotoka, then returned to Makeni. Then we went to Magburaka, on the way to Makeni.
Def: (References document) Let’s look at your first statement, from March 2003. Witness walked to Masiaka where he met his aunt in the RUF. She advised witness to come to Kailahun. Witness and others passed through Makeni, Magburaka, etc. At Mortema, witness saw senior AFRC and RUF leaders (lists them). Do you recall making those comments?
Wit: Yes. The statement is correct. Coming from Masiaka to Makeni there are many towns that have not been mentioned.
Def: In your statment you don’t mention Tombu or Fogbo, do you?
Wit: I explained it all.
Def: This morning you said that Mortema is on the outskirts of Koidu Town, correct?
Wit: It’s not just like that. There’s a section of Koidu Town called Mortema. It’s still Koidu.
Def: You have to pass through it to get to the center of Koidu Town?
Def: You also went to Guinea Highway in Koidu?
Def: How long did you stay there?
Wit: I spent a week there.
Def: From there you went to Gandorhun?
Def: Are you sure you spent an entire week at Guinea Highway?
Def: At this time in Koidu there was fighting going on with the Kamajors, the CDF?
Wit: Which towns do you mean? I want to be precise. Who are you referring to?
Def: Do you know what Kamajors mean?
Wit: Yes. Kamajor in Mende is not a warrior. It is a bush hunter, he is not a combatant.
Def: In February 1998, were there people fighting in the war called Kamajors in Koidu Town?
Def: They were fighting the RUF and AFRC?
Wit: That’s true.
Def: At one point the fighting was so heavy that you and your convoy left for Gandarhun?
Def: Then you went back to Koidu Town?
Def: From Koidu you went to Baoma?
Def: Then ultimately from there you went to Kailahun?
Def: Did anything unusual happen between you and Eldred Collins while you were in Kailahun?
Wit: Yes. He forcefully took all my money away from me – all the money I’d been saving for my mother in Guinea. He stole it from me.
Def: He was with Jumu Jalloh?
Def: You went to Beudu to confront Collins, didn’t you?
Wit: It’s not like that. I can explain. I was bleeding from my ear.
Def: Collins took your 8 million Leones in Kailahun?
Def: At some point you went to Beudu?
Wit: Yes, but not directly. I went to the front at Jakebo first.
Def: This morning you said Johnny Paul Koroma gave you ammunition to take to Jakebo, true?
Wit: I didn’t say it that way. It was not Johnny Paul. It was Issa. Issa was in Kailahun that morning. Collins took me to him. Johnny Paul had left for Beudu.
Def: I withdraw the question. It was Issa Sesay who sent you to the front lines with ammunition?
Def: You told the OTP in your statement that it was Eldred Collins who ordered you to the front lines. Do you recall? (References document.) These are the interview notes from March 26, 2003: Witness eventually reached Kailahun. Whilst there, Eldred Collins came with Jumu Jalloh of the AFRC. They forcefully took his 8 million Leones. Collins then sent him to the front to fight at Jakebo. After two months there without participating in fighting due to ear trouble. He returned to Kailahun, then got a pass to go to Beudu to talk with Collins to talk about his money. Is this correct?
Wit: I was sick at that time and not thinking about money. We were in the same convoy to Beudu.
Def: It was Collins who sent you to the war front?
Wit: It was Issa. Collins too was subjected to Issa’s order. Collins gave me a gun.
Def: The prosecution was mistaken in writing it was Collins who sent me to the front?
Wit: It is not a lie because he gave me the gun.
Def: Did anything unusual happen in Beudu?
Wit: I was sick. I was repairing radios. They gave me a machine to repair and it didn’t work. I told Collins I am not an electrician. They gave me 200 lashes for disrespecting him.
Def: When you were in Beudu after being arrested by Collins, did you see Sam Bockarie?
Def: Under what circumstances?
Wit: A colleague soldier killed his colleague. We set up a panel for a court martial. They releaseed me to be on the panel.
Def: What happened with Bockarie?
Wit: He said the arrest was not legal. He turned me into an MP.
Def: You joined the RUF because Bockarie made you an MP?
Wit: Yes, it was then that I joined the RUF because he saved me from injustice.
Def: You took a liking to Bockarie?
Def: Between you and Sam Bockarie, the only person between the two of you was Alex Alie?
Wit: No. There were people ahead of me. I was in an ordinary rank. They wanted to tap my military experience so there would be no dispute between the rebels and soldiers.
Def: You had significant responsibilities?
Def: No civilian could come or go in Beudu without a pass from you?
Def: You also issued passes to warring soldiers and were responsible for prisoners of war?
Def: In addition to being responsible for prisoners of war, you would have to confirm the accuracy of how many civilians had been taken for manpower?
Wit: Yes, for security reasons. To protect them.
Def: You were responsible for posting soldiers to checkpoints?
Def: Although many people were ahead of you, you had all these responsibilities?
Wit: Yes. I couldn’t escape.
Def: You were a prisoner of the RUF?
Wit: In a civilized setting. I was not on salary or ration. I was like a prisoner. Mosquito knew I could escape because it was my home-town. That’s why I had to stay in the MP office.
Def: You were free to leave but you were kept prisoner?
Def: Let’s go back to your time in Koidu, Kono Distruct. When you arrived in Kono, you saw all sorts of things happening to civilians, including burned-out buildings. And you were with the AFRC?
Wit: Yes. But everyone was a commander at the time. There was no hierarchy then.
Def: When you gave your first statement, you didn’t mention seeing burning of buildings in Kono, did you?
Wit: I said it. I said Kono was burned. Kono was demolished.
Def: Your statement in March 2003 – you didn’t mention Operation No Living Thing, did you?
Wit: I talked about the destruction of Kono.
Def: So the prosecution was mistaken if they did not write it down.
Wit: I took an oath. If I had said everything I saw, it would take a long time.
Def: You met with them four days later, in Kailahun District office. During that interview, you didn’t say anything about the burning of houses in Kono, did you?
Wit: You may be right. I told the prosecution I was just giving them a summary. I told them there were many other things I could explain so that evil can stop, terrorism can stop. If I explained everything to you, it would fill many papers.
Def: You didn’t mention burnign of buildings in Kono?
Wit: I spoke about the destruction of Kono.
Def: (References document.) You also met the prosecution in February 2004. Then you also didn’t say anything about the burning of buildings in Kono, did you?
Wit: I said it. I saw it with my own eyes. I swore on the Bible. It’s not my home-town, but I saw it.
Def: You said you saw women and children being taken as captives?
Def: In none of these three statements from March 2003 and February 2004 do you detail those events in Kono District. When you saw all of these events, they troubled you?
Wit: Yes. They trouble me still.
Def: Did you do anything to stop any of this?
Wit: If I had done something, they would have killed me.
Def: But you were a member of the AFRC?
Def: Were you yourself vulnerable to attacks by people in your convoy? Were you under threat?
Def: From whom?
Wit: At that time they knew us as SLPP children. Our father started the SLPP movement in Sierra Leone. I was only brave but hadn’t a gun.
Def: You were brave and went around Kono, taking notes of what was happening?
Def: You were recording the events?
Wit: I did that. They took everything from me when I got to Kailahun.
Def: You had a camera with you in Kono?
Wit: I didn’t. Our colleagues had a camera.
Def: Did you have access to a camera when the chaos was unfolding in Kono?
Wit: I couldn’t handle a camera. I was an artist. I drew. I observed.
Def: You deny that you took photos with a camera in Kono in Feb 1998?
Wit: That colleague of mine used to take photos. If I had a camera they would have killed me. Commanders had the cameras.
Def: What was the name of your colleage who took pictures with a camera?
Wit: I knew his name. He left us and returned to Western Jungle. His name was Cyborg (ph).
Def: (References document.) This is a transcript of your testimony in the AFRC case in July 2005. Do you recall saying these things? Witness: I used the military sequence to learn about Operation No Living Thing. I interviewed armed men. They were not identified. I approached them. I took some snapshots.
Wit: Yes, I remember.
Def: Was there a camera among your group?
Wit: Yes, there were some cameras. Some people took pictures during normal times, not during warring times.
Def: Do you deny taking pictures when there was carnage in Kono?
Wit: I took the picture from a friend. The cards.
Def: Nobody bothered you with those pictures?
Wit: They took it from me in Boama with some other documents, by the riverside.
Def: (Reads from transcript). The men didn’t know I had images of them. I took snapshots under cover. Do you remember saying this?
Wit: Yes. I told them we used to take pictures in the convoy. Some of us thought we would escape to Guinea. My friend Cyborg had a camera. We didn’t take pictures when there was fighting. Just during casual times. I did not own a camera.
Def: What did you mean, “when I took a snapshot”?
Wit: I was in a convoy with many and some people had cameras.
Def: You were with RUF and AFRC members in Kono when there was carnage and people had cameras?
Def: And the people who were burning buildings, capturing women and children, were the people you were with?
Wit: In my own team, they did not do it. Those who went on operations captured children.
Def: Some members of your convoy who had cameras were the same people capturing children.
Wit: Those who attacked towns captured children. They brought the children back to a safe zone where we were. During leisure time they would play music and take snapshots.
Def: These operations people were part of the AFRC and RUF?
Def: And the people who captured children and women and burned buildings were also AFRC/RUF?
Def: And some or all of those people were in your convoy?
Def: And the same people who were committing crimes were taking pictures of their crimes?
Wit: No. Not everyone was a fighter. Some were just cooks. There were some people who took food. Some people who burned houses. Some people only looted. There was a division of labor.
Court is adjourning for the day. The defense cross-examination of prosecution witness Dennis Koker will continue tomorrow morning at 9:30. Our coverage will continue at 10:00.