Cross-Examination of Sherif Continues

The Hague

January 11, 2008

This morning, Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths resumed his cross-examination of Varmuyan Sherif, a former member of Taylor’s personal security force.  Griffiths asked a series of questions designed to demonstrate that Sherif was not part of Taylor’s inner circle, had motive to fabricate testimony about Taylor, suffered mental illness, and that his current testimony was inconsistent with statements he had made to the Prosecution in 2005.   

Relationship with Taylor

Griffiths began by questioning Sherif’s personal relationship with Taylor, seeking to establish that he was not a member of Taylor’s trusted inner circle.  Sherif replied that he was a “trusted man” of Taylor, but conceded that he and Taylor were not close friends, did not watch television together, and that he would only see Taylor for short five to ten minute periods of time.  Sherif also agreed that during the 1998/1999 Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy in Liberia (LURD) invasion of Liberia, because former United Liberation Movement of Democracy (ULIMO) commanders were involved, and he was viewed with suspicion because of his past ties to ULIMO.

Motive to Testify Against Taylor and Allegations of “Mental Illness”

Sherif confirmed that his father’s two wives had been murdered by NPFL forces who placed them in a car and set it on fire.   He also admitted that his family hated Taylor and that his family was angry with him for working with Taylor.  This caused him anguish, and his family “continuously” reminded him of that past event.  Sherif added that he overcame this difficulty because he wanted peace.

Griffiths asked Sherif whether he suffered from the “African Sign”, which he explained refers to mental illness.  Sherif denied this allegation.  In addition, Sherif agreed with Griffiths that his driver (Amos Morris) was truthful, but denied Griffiths’ suggestion that Morris said Sherif was “running around Monrovia naked” requiring that he be put under house arrest by his family.  Griffiths pressed the issue, contending that Sherif was given money by Taylor for medical treatment in Mali and that he was removed from his position in 2000 because of mental illness.  Throughout, Sherif repeatedly denied these allegations.

Sherif’s Mission to Bring Sam Bockarie to Liberia

Griffiths extensively cross-examined Sherif on his testimony concerning RUF commander Sam Bockarie, and was able to establish that Sherif had never seen Taylor and Bockarie together at the same time, had no idea why Taylor would want to speak with Bockarie, and was never present when Taylor spoke to Bockarie. 

Sherif also testified that his trip to Sierra Leone to get Bockarie occurred in early 1998.  Griffiths suggested that Sherif was not telling the truth about his trip because Taylor would have had Christopher Varmoh (known as ”the Liberian Mosquito”) — who was in charge of Lofa County at this time — contact Bockarie instead.  Sherif disagreed, and Griffiths promised to return to this issue.

Later, Griffiths suggested that Sherif “wickedly and deliberately” had lied about his mission to get Bockarie and bring him to Monrovia at Taylor’s request.  Griffiths relied on two discrepancies between Sherif’s testimony yesterday and his previous statement to the Prosecution in February 2005:

  • Sherif had testified on direct that he saw Bockarie execute five individuals in Kailahun, but the Defense adduced on cross that Sherif had told the Prosecution in February 2005 that he had been informed in Kailahun that Bockarie had just left before he arrived.   
  • The Defense also adduced that, in contrast to his direct testimony in which he claimed to have observed Bockarie remove a 6 inch by 3 inch jar of diamonds from his jacket pocket before his meeting with Taylor, Sherif made no mention of this in his February 2005 statement to the Prosecution and instead told them that he only learned later that Bockarie had given a bag of diamonds to Musa Cisse, Taylor’s Chief of Protocol.

Sherif sought to explain these discrepancies by noting that he did not recall every detail of every event to a single person.  He also said he did not give the Prosecution all the information he knew until later because he feared for his life at that time.  As Griffiths pressed this line of questioning and alleged that Sherif gave the Prosecution false information, Presiding Judge Sebutinde ended the day’s proceedings at 1:00 p.m. and adjourned the Court until Monday 9 a.m.