5:00 Cross-examination of prosecution witness Stephen Ellis begins

Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura continues to question prosecution witness Stephen Ellis:

Pros: Yesterday you were commenting on remarks made by the ECOMOG commander in Sierra Leone.  You recounted this in your report?

Wit: I quote the ECOMOG commander regarding supply of weapons to the RUF in Sierra Leone. He publicly accused Taylor of flying arms to the RUF using Ukrainian planes and crews.  This statement was made in 1999 just after the attack on Freetown in January 1999.  That attack was the most serious and costly in human lives of the whole Sierra Leonean war.

Pros: (Refers witness to a document) You recognize this as a news report showing this statement of the ECOMOG commander?

Wit: Yes, I note it’s a report by IRIN, the news arm of the United Nations.

Pros: (Reading from report) ECOMOG commander in SL has issued a strong warning to the presidents of Liberia and Burkina Faso, according to a statement.  He described events leading to an arms delivery to the RUF.  ECOMOG has confirmed the activities of two countries and their leaders.  This followed the removal of the junta in 1998?

Wit: Correct.

Pros: Going back to the role of ECOMOG during the period of junta rule – they were supposed to assist in reinstating the legitimate government?

Wit: Yes.  The coup of May 1997 overthrew a democratically elected government of Ahmad Tejan-Kabbah.  The AFRC government was not internationally recognized.  ECOWAS governments formed a plan to reinstate the democratic government.  This plan did not proceed as planned.  The AFRC was removed by military means.

Pros: This ECOWAS plan was not fulfilled?

Wit: The democratic government was not restored through the diplomatic approach foreseen by the plan.

Pros: (Referring witness to another document):  Is this the ECOWAS plan to which you refer?

Wit: Yes, it’s commonly known as the Conakry Accord or Conakry Plan.

Pros: Why did it fail?

Wit: The AFRC/RUF government in SL did not observe the provisions of this peace plan.  They were removed forcefully in February 1998 by ECOMOG.

Pros: We’ve discussed further events after removal of the junta.  Government armed force was now no longer in existence?

Wit: That’s correct.  When the democratic government was restored through the military attack in February 1998 and Kabbah’s return, the armed forces were in disarray and the armed forces essentially liquidated.  When I arrived in May 1998, the ECOMOG commander also had the title of Chief of Staff of the Sierra Leonean armed forces.  He also wore a third hat as commander of the Nigerian forces in Sierra Leone.  In effect the Sierra Leonean army had temporarily ceased to exist.  The chief of staff was a Nigerian general.

Pros: We discussed yesterday an increase in the capacity of the RUF to attack ECOMOG around 1999.

Wit: We discussed it briefly.  From mid-1998 there was an increase in attack on civilians.  It appeared their tactic was to attack civilians as a military tactic.  There was an increase in amputations.  Toward the end of the year there was a reorganization of the AFRC/RUF that led to the January 1999 invasion of Freetown.

Pros:  Prior to negotiation of the July 1999 Lome Peace Accords, there had to be a cease-fire, correct?

Wit: Correct.

Pros: (Refers witness to a document) Do you recognize this?

Wit: Yes.  It’s the text of the cease fire between the government of SL and the RUF in SL.  The attack on Freetown in January 1999 led to enormous pressures on the party to reach a cease-fire. 

Pros: In your report you discuss the role and influence of Charles Taylor over the RUF and his connection to the war in Sierra Leone.  There are two specific instances where you identify that role.  One is in the signing of the Lome Peace Accord following this agreement.  Can you explain?

Wit: The attack on Freetown in January 1999 led to the making of a documentary “Cry Freetown”.  It was the first time that the war was brought to the attention of the world.  There was sustained pressure for a peace accord.  The US sent Rev. Jesse Jackson with authority from the US president, who joined in pressuring Foday Sankoh and Tejan Kabbah to agree a cease-fire and sign the Lome Accord in July 1999.  Taylor clearly encouraged Foday Sankoh to go to the peace conference and sign the peace accord.

Pros: The other instance cited in your report showing Taylor’s influence over the RUF was in regard to the abduction of UN peacekeepers?

Wit: That was in 2000 when Taylor proposed himself as intermediary to negotiate the release of hundreds of UN peacekeepers.

Pros: The relationship between the accused and the RUF continued?

Wit: Yes.  By that time the RUF was very splintered.  The primary relationship Taylor had was with Sam Bockarie.  As a result of Lome, Sankoh had a formal position in the SL government in charge of mineral resources.

Pros: Yesterday we discussed that following this split within the RUF, Mosquito moved to LIbeiria?

Wit: Yes.  He went in December 1999 with several hundred fighters.

Pros: How did the accused benefit from this?

Wit: The situation changed rapidly.  Looking back to the period of the Liberian civil war and the affairs of its neighbors and Nigeria, I would say that Charles Taylor showed a keen strategic sense, and by 1999 he’d reached his peak of influence and power in the region.  Lome was a sign of that.  The May 2000 hostage taking was a sign that something had changed.  The international reaction to the hostage taking and Taylor’s offer of mediation was not welcoming, but rather a recognition that Taylor was the person who could turn the violence on and off.  This, together with UK intervention in SL, led to a decline in Taylor’s influence.  Taylor’s relationship with Bockarie changed from a mechanism to influence Sierra Leone into a mode of self defense.  He now used Bockarie and his faction of the RUF to help defend against attacks by LURD.

Pros: Regarding the diamond trade, the relationship between Taylor and the RUF continued beyond this point?

Wit: Yes, it was documented by journalists and UN panels, investigating the breeches in sanctions against SL and Liberia.

Pros: (Refers the witness and court to another document)

Defense questions the relevance of the document, a report titled “Taylor Made” by the NGO Global Witness.  Pros: The witness has said the relationship between the accused and the RUF continued after the presentation of the UN panel reports.  This is one document that supports his account.  I would like to have the witness speak to this report.  Judge Sebutinde overrules the objection.  The judges haven’t read the document and the prosecution has the latitude to ask about it.

Pros: What is this document?

Wit: This is one of a series of reports from Global Witness, an NGO based in the UK.  It does research and campaigns on the role of armed conflict on environmental issues.  I first encountered their work in the 1990s regarding Angola. 

Pros: This report is sourced in your report?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: The Global Witness report states that the UN Security Council should place an embargo on the export of Liberian timber until it can be assured that the export is not supporting the RUF and Liberian milias.  Were there still links between the accused and the RUF at the time?

Wit: Global Witness is an NGO that had established a reputation in diplomatic circles for thorough research.  I’m sure this report created some pressure on the UN, which eventually did impose sanctions.

Prosecution asks a series of questions about elements of the report regarding links between Liberia and the RUF in an effort to establish the report’s relevance in response to the defense argument that it is immaterial to the trial.  The witness agrees that these sections of the report indicate such connections.

Pros: You mentioned yesterday that during one of your visits to Sierra Leone during 1998, you met with boys who had been fighting with the RUF?

Wit: Yes, I met some former RUF fighters.  There were 2-3 young boys and a girl who was slightly older, maybe 14.  The Catholic Priest in whose custody they were, in Freetown, told me that these children had remained behind after the RUF/AFRC fled Freetown.  He told me they were in danger of being lynched by people angry about the RUF/AFRC.  In Kenema, I was told that RUF fighters were burned alive.

Pros: Yesterday, we discussed links between the NPFL and RUF, in the early days of the war in Liberia, up to 1997.  In your report you mention that units with small children are called SBUs – in the NPFL?

Wit: Yes.

Pros: And the same was true of the RUF – they had SBUs?

Wit: I’ve read in some of the documentation that the RUF called their units of children SBUs

Pros: Can you comment on the commonality of these names?

Wit: It’s clear that the RUF and NPFL were close.  The TRC report makes clear that at the start of the war, NPFL forces were deeply involved.  Many activities attributed to the RUF near the beginning of the war were in actuality committed by the NPFL.  The common term “SBU” suggests that the RUF took that name from the NPFL.

Pros: Yesterday we discussed an interview with Taylor in LeMonde that showed that he knew about atrocities by the RUF in Sierra Leone.  Are there other sources suggesting such knowledge?

Wit: After the period of junta rule and especially after the Freetown invasion of Jan 1999, there was worldwide attention on atrocities of the RUF and AFRC.  If the rest of the world knew about this, Taylor must have known.

Pros: Yesterday we discussed the relationship between Taylor and ECOMOG.  We discussed the flight of AFRC members fleeing Freetown for Monrovia by helicopter.  They were detained by ECOMOG.  How did this affect the relationship between the accused and ECOMOG?

Wit: The relationship between Taylor and ECOMOG changed over time.  It was very hostile throughout the early 1990s, with moments of relative tranquility.  There was a major change in 1995, for several reasons.  There was a change of government in Nigeria.  Gen. Babangida had left power and Gen Abacha soon took over.  Abacha had a less hostile attitude toward Taylor and the NPFL.  By 1995 the Nigerian government understood that Taylor was a powerful force in Liberia who wasn’t going to go away.  If they wanted eventual peace in Liberia, it would be necessary to compromise.  In the early 1990s, Taylor was ferociously opposed to Nigeria.  He eventually recognized he would never become president without coming to some understanding with the Nigerians.  This eventually led to the July 1997 elections that Taylor won.  ECOWAS was to help rebuild the Liberian military and police, whereas Taylor made it plain after his election that he wanted ECOMOG to leave Liberia. 

Pros: Was there any immediate reaction by the accused when ECOMOG detained the AFRC members fleeing Freetown?

Wit: There were press reports that Taylor was angered by the action.

Prosecution has no further questions for the witness.

Defense counsel Terry Munyard begins cross-examination of Stephen Ellis:

Def: You talk about elements fleeing Freetown in 1998. 

Wit: I’m referring to AFRC people fleeing Freetown in February 1998.  They were detained by ECOMOG in Monrovia.

Def: Turning to more general matters…I’d like to talk about the history of Taylor becoming involved in armed conflict in Liberia.  The state of Liberia was founded my freed slaves?

Wit: Most of them were the descendents of freed slaves.

Def: There were parallels with Sierra Leone?

Wit: That’s a striking parallel.

Def: In the case of Liberia, the people who ran the country were called Americo-Liberians and saw themselves as distinct from the people in the hinterland?

Wit: Yes.

Def: This was an arbitrary border drawn, dividing tribes?

Wit: The border was not delineated until the end of the 19th century / beginning of the 20th.

Def: In SL, Freetown was a colony and the hinterlands were a protectorate?

Wit: Yes.

Def: In the 19th and early years of the 20th century, the urban population regarded itself as superior?

Wit: Yes.  You’re referring to the Krio elite in Freetown, which was under colonial officials.  There was no parallel to the colonial officials in Liberia.

Def: Within many parts of Africa, forced labor was very common in Liberia?

Wit: Yes.  In both countries there were regulations on that subject.

Def: In one of them, regulations provided rights to industry to use forced labor.

Wit: Yes.  I’ve seen in the Liberian archives a document drafted in the 1920s and last updated in 1949, providing that goernment officials could require people to carry things for them.

Def: By the mid-20th century, in both countries there was still an urban elite in both countries controlling the government and economy.

Wit: In Libeira, yes.  In Britain there was colonialism.

Def: In Liberia, power became concentrated in that hands of Pres Tubman?

Wit: Yes.

Def: He developed around him a coterie of people dependent on him for their positions?

Wit: There was an Americo-Liberian elite.  Within that elite, some families more prestigous than others.  Tubman wasn’t really one of the Monrovia elite, but when he became president he became the undisputed patron of everybody in Liberia.  There was opposition to him from time to time, but he was able to overcome that.  He developed a cult of personality and controlled the economy. 

Def: There was little investment in infrastructure?

Wit: There was big investment in extractive industries.  Many critics of the government said there was insufficient attention made to investment in education and social infrastructure. 

Def: The US had great influence under Tubman? 

Wit: Yes.

Def: And the Firestone Corporation had a significant influence on the economy of Liberia?

Wit: Right.

Def: Tubman wanted to curry favor with the US?

Wit: He was a close ally.

Def: The CIA had its largest African base in Liberia?

Wit: Certainly at a later date.  I don’t know when exactly it was established.

Def: From 1971, President Tolbert took over and didn’t have the same control?

Wit: He tried to introduce changes.  He lacked the overwhelming influence of Tubman.  Times were changing.

Def: By 1971, many countries had overcome colonialism?

Wit: By then all countries in W. Africa had become independent except for Guinea-Bissau.

Def: Tolbert attempeted to distance himself from the US, also by refusing permission to use Roberts Airfield?

Wit: Yes, that’s right.  The US wanted to set up a rapid deployment force and he refused it.  Some intellectuals felt it was inappropriate.

Def: There was growing dissent by that time?

Wit: Once Tubman died and Tolbert came in, who had less prestige, pressure for change building up during the 1960s became evident.  People wanted better governance.

Def: Tolbert attempted to distance himself from teh US as a result?

Wit: Yes.

Def: By 1980 the Americans knew there was considerable dissent with the Armed Forces of Liberia?

Wit: There were growing protests, including the Rice Riots of April 1979.  It became clear that the government was in trouble.

Def: By 1980 it was clear Tolbert was likely to be overthrown and the Americans hoped they’d have someone in power who would be pro-American?

Wit: I’ve spoken to people who were in government at the time, read historical accounts and articles.  Observers including the US government knew the Tolbert government was in trouble and looking around for someone better.  There are many rumors about precisely what happened.  International governments, of which the US was most important, were looking to back a winner.

Def: The leader of the coup leading to Tolbert’s murder was Thomas Quiwonkpa?

Wit: Yes.

Def: He was the formal leader?

Wit: There are different versions of how the coup happened and the degree to which it was planned or improvised.  As soon as it was known that Tolbert was dead, none of whom were senior officers, various decisions had to be taken.  The version that I find has most support is that the most influential person in that group was Thomas Quiwonkpa, but Doe rose because he had the highest rank, Master Sergeant.  Tolbert is said to have been killed in his bedroom.  His son sought refuge in the French embassy.  He as married to the Ivorian president’s goddaughter, and he felt he’d negotiated safe passage.  Tolbert’s son was killed, adding to the feeling in W. Africa that this was a very bloody coup.

Def: The murder of Tolbert’s son earned the hostility of the Ivorian government to Doe and his coterie?

Wit: President Houphet Boigny (ph) had a personal dislike of Doe.

Def: Did Doe’s forces storm the French embassy?

Wit: I’ve seen different accounts.

Def: Doe set about disposing of former comrades in arms?

Wit: There were a number of intrigues.  The members of the original group of 17 soldiers started being killed. 

Def: Major Garbo (ph) was killed abroad?

Wit: He was American-trained special forces.  It was said he was planning his own coup but was pre-empted.  He was killed by Liberian troops at the SL border.

Def: Doe became the supreme leader of the junta that then ruled until elections in 1985?

Wit: There was a rapid changed.  The two most influential figures were Doe and Quiwonkpa.  There was inflation of ranks and Quiwonkpa became a general.  The Americans viewed him as the real power.  Over time, Doe manouvered to remove all his rivals.  Quiwonkpa first fled abroad.

Def: He fled in 1983 with several other people, including Taylor and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf?

Wit: Yes, though I’m not sure precisely what date Johnson Sirleaf fled.

Def: They all feared for their lives in Liberia?

Wit: Yes.

Def: By 1985, Americans had managed to regain influence?

Wit: The Americans had never really lost influence.  The relationship between the US and Liberia was not as smooth in the immediate wake of the coup in 1980.  When it was clear that Doe had consolidated power, they backed him.

Def: They poured money on Doe?

Wit: Yes. 

Def: President Reagan invited him the White House, where he memorably called him “Chairman Moe”?

Wit: Yes.

Def: The 1985 elections were patently rigged?

Wit: Yes.

Def: By 1985, there were international election monitors able to comment on the validity of the elections.  The US government view was that these elections were proper?

Wit: I recall Asst. Secretary of State for African Affairs, Chester Crocker, saying that imperfect elections were better than none at all.

Def: The follwoing month, US intelligence services tipped off Doe about a coup being planned by Quiwonkpa?

Wit: Quiwonkpa had been in exile and was planning a coup for 1985.  At one stage the coup attempt appeared to have succeeded, but then Doe regained control of Monrovia.  He killed Quiwonkpa and there were many casualties.  His body was paraded around the streets.

Def: The US and Israel became involved in training Doe’s elite forces?

Wit: Yes.  And there was more aid.

Def: Did that aid benefit the Liberian people?

Wit: It’s clear that the aid given was not used for its proper purposes.  The general population saw little or no benefit.  The money disappeared.  Nobody knows precisely where it went.  One of Doe’s weaknesses was his lack of education.  He may not have been skilful in controlling where all the money went.

Def: In the meantime there were widespread reports of human rights abuses in Liberia.

Wit: Yes, esp. from 1983.

Def: Gen Charles Julu (or Julue) became notorious for his methods?

Wit: Yes, particularly in Nimba County. He was a brutal general who was given the job in 1983 to suppress a group known as the Nimba County Raid.  Given an instruction to repress a military threat, he ordered or permitted his troops to kill indiscriminately.  There was a wider problem.  The competition between Doe and Quiwonkpa in the early 1980s led them both to recruit on an ethnic basis.  This created ethnic tensions within the army, then spread to wider society.  Quiwonkpa came from Nimba County.  After his attempted coup, Nimba County felt the full force of Doe’s wrath.  People in Liberia give different dates for when the war started.  Some say 1985, some 1983, some even 1979.  There was intense violence.

Def: There was an extremely brutal government in the 1980s?

Wit: Yes.

Def: Gen Julu was known for beheadings?

Wit: I’ve not heard of that particular approach, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Def: That’s the picture of Liberia in the 1980s.  By that time, the CIA had reestablished themselves in Monrovia?

Wit: Yes.  I don’t know the history of the CIA’s presence in Monrovia, but Liberia remained an important ally under Doe.

Def: In 1989, Gen Julu came back to prominence.  Was that in response to the NPFL attack, or did that precede it?

Wit: The NPFL attack was on 24 Dec 1989.  When it became clear that there was an armed movement in north Liberia, a number of officers were sent to repress it.  Those included Gen Julu, who committed atrocities.

Def: Julu came back into Liberia as a member of the LURD?

Wit: I wasn’t aware of that.  He played a role at times during the 1990s.  He wasn’t in the top leadership of LURD.

Def: The US had become embarrassed by Doe by the 1990s, hadn’t they?

Wit: Yes.

Def: Doe referred to himself as Dr. Doe?

Wit: Yes.

Def: The Americans wanted him to go into exile?

Wit: Yes, right at the end.

Def: They recognized that the Doe era was coming to an end.

Wit: American diplomats were increasingly frustrated with Doe.  Various schemes to improve governance were unsuccessful.  In the early and middle months of 1990, there were attempts made by the US government to persuade him to go into exile.  Doe refused.

Def: The massacre at a Monrovia church in July 1990 indicated how bad the situation was becoming?

Wit: It was very hard to get information out of Liberia in early 1990.  There was increasing repression in Monrovia in early 1990 as it became known that the NPFL was advancing.  In July 1990 there was a massacre of about 600 displaced people in the church.  By that stage, Doe’s forces were in a state of indiscipline, panic and frustration.  They believed many of the people in the church were from Nimba County.

Def: Were they aware that Charles Taylor’s father was in that church?

Wit: I don’t know if they were aware.

Def: Was he?

Wit: I’ve read news accounts that he was.

Def: By mid-1990 there was a general feeling that Doe had to go?

Wit: It’s difficult to reconstruct popular feeling after the event.  People from Nimba County with whom I’ve spoken say that from 1983 and esp. from 1985 they weren’t regarded as real Liberians.  That feeling originated in the rivalry betwen Quiwonkpa and Doe.  It had created the elements of a civil war, and at some point it was civil war.  Doe had little support by the late 1980s.

Def: The US government was divided by mid-1990 on whether the US should intervene?

Wit: Part of the global significance of what was happening in Liberia was that this was the first serious crisis in Africa after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I was told by a senior American State Department official involved in events at that time in W. Africa that the governments of W. Africa were sure the US would intervene in Liberia to keep events from getting out of hand.  However, the end of the Cold War had changed the calculations.  In the new circumstances of 1990, the US government said it wouldn’t intervene because the rules had changed.

Def: Do you agree there was dissent in the US government?

Wit: Assistant Secretary of State Herman Cohen has written a memoir about it and I’ve spoken with him.  He says he went to Secretary of State Baker to outline options, and Baker replied that if you can’t tell me what’s going to happen, then I don’t want to intervene.  

Def: Cohen went into the jungle to meet with Taylor and the NPFL to ask whether they would invade Monrovia, or abide by an American request that they not invade?

Wit: The US didn’t want the NPFL to invade for fear of a bloodbath.

Def: And the NPFL complied with the request?

Wit: Well, the attack didn’t take place.

Def: At that time the NPFL could have taken Monrovia fairly easily?

Wit: I think it’s important to note at this point that there was a split in the NPFL, with a splinter faction called INPFL forming…

Presiding Judge Julia Sebutinde interrupts to state that time has run out for today’s session.  She also makes an administrative announcement, that the trial chamber presidency rotates tomorrow.  Judge Theresa Doherty will take over as presiding judge.  Court will resume at