January 9, 2008
Today the Defense completed its cross-examination of Alex Tamba Teh, a Prosecution witness who testified about various RUF atrocities he witnessed in Kono District in April 1998. The Prosecution also began its direct examination of Varmuyan Sherif, a former member of Taylor’s personal security force (the Special Security Service or “SSS”). Sherif’s testimony provides evidentiary links between Taylor and the RUF.
Cross-Examination of Teh Concludes
This morning, Defense Counsel Andrew Cayley continued his cross-examination of Teh. The Defense sought to establish that Teh was listed as a supervisor for RUF schools for the poor in Kono District under the name Isaac Teh, possibly in an effort to illustrate closer ties to the RUF. Seeking to undercut Teh’s credibility, the Defense established that some of Teh’s direct testimony was not contained in his prior witness statements and interview notes, including (1) RUF commander Rocky’s genuine name (Emmanuel Williams) and (2) Teh’s statement that he saw Sam Bockarie (aka “Mosquito”, commander of the RUF from 1998-1999) use a satellite phone for communication, refer deferentially to the other participant to the call by saying, ”yes sir,” and indicated that he had to travel to Liberia. Cayley expressed some frustration at the witness’s refusal to answer questions directly, and on a number of occasions Presiding Judge Sebutinde intervened, requesting that Teh answer the questions put to him. Trying to further discredit the witness, defense counsel also asked him at length about certain witness payments made to him by the Court’s victim services program and the Office of the Prosecutor.
Mohamed Bangura conducted a short re-examination of Teh in which he revisited only one issue: Teh’s request to become a Field Marshall when asked to join the rebels, and Mosquito’s response that his boss Charles Ghankay Taylor was not even a five star general. Bangura established that Teh made a correction to his original witness statement in a later statement that incorporated this point, in order to rehabilitate his attacked credibility.
Prosecution Calls Linking Witness Varmuyan Sherif
Lead prosecutor Brenda Hollis conducted the direct examination of Sherif, a 39-year-old man born in Voinjama in Liberia. Sherif was previously identified as “TF1-406″ but waived protective measures and testified in open session, speaking in “Liberian English”. Wearing traditional African clothing, Sherif was sworn in on the Koran.
Sherif testified that he was a battalion commander and later general supervisor in the United Liberian Movement for Democracy (”ULIMO”) in the early 1990s, fighting against the NPFL (led by Taylor) and the RUF. In 1995, he was appointed as Assistant Director for Operations of the SSS, serving in the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, Liberia as part of a peace agreement involving the three warring factions in the country. He was subsequently appointed to that position by Taylor after his election to the presidency in August 1997, and served in that capacity until 1999/2000. His immediate superior was Joseph Montgomery (Deputy Director for Administration in the SSS), who in turn reported to Benjamin Yeaten (Director of the SSS). He was transferred to Immigration from 2000-2003 and held various positions there (Deputy Chief of Security, Chief of Security, Assistant Commissioner of Operations and then Deputy Commissioner). From 2000 – 2003, Taylor also appointed him as Deputy Chief of Staff, Army Division.
Among the key points from Sherif’s testimony today are:
- While fighting against the NPFL and the RUF, Sherif recalled that captured fighters from these groups included males and females youths as young as 12 years old.
- In late 1998 or early 1999, Taylor called Sherif into his office and instructed him to go to RUF territory and bring Sam Bockarie (aka “Mosquito”, leader of the RUF) to Monrovia.
- Upon eventually reaching Buedu in Sierra Leone, Sherif was taken to Bockarie after identifying himself as Liberian and his position with the SSS. Wary of Sherif’s identity, Bockarie took him to a “radio room” and instructed a radio operator to contact the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, whereupon a radio operator on the 5th floor of the mansion was contacted using the code “405”. Sherif recognized the voice of the operator as a former NPLF man and Joseph Montgomery from the SSS came on the line to confirm for Bockarie that Sherif was acting on Taylor’s instructions. Sherif later saw the long-range radio system on the 5th floor of the Executive Mansion, which was separate from the mansion’s other radio system.
- On the journey with Bockarie to Monrovia, Sherif took him to his house in Voinjama. While preparing to take a bath, Bockarie removed a mayonnaise jar full of diamonds from his jacket pocket.
- After Bockarie met with Taylor in Monrovia, he thanked Sherif for being the first person to make it possible for him to meet Taylor, as all other communications had just been by radio. Bockarie also told Sherif that Taylor had given him money (USD) and a satellite phone.
- Taylor instructed Sherif to deliver a truckload of arms and ammunition to Bockarie at the border of Sierra Leone and Liberia. The Prosecution marked for identification photographs in which Sherif identified himself and others from Liberia delivering the load of weapons while in disguise to avoid detection by ECOMOG. Sherif also testified concerning other deliveries of arms to Bockarie.
- Taylor told Sherif to tell former ULIMO fighters that they were free to go to RUF territory, and to contact a former senior ULIMO commander to travel to Sierra Leone work with Bockarie and encourage these fighters to join the RUF. Sherif recruited Abu Keita who agreed to work with Bockarie.
- Sherif attended a meeting with Keita and a number of other officials from Taylor’s government in which they discussed how to carry out various attacks. Benjamin Yeaten (Director of the SSS) instructed Bockarie to have the RUF attack Guinea.
- Sherif heard Bockarie say on the BBC that he would not retreat from fighting in Sierra Leone unless his “father” told him to retreat, and that his “father” was Charles Taylor.
- Sometime before the RUF attacked Freetown on January 6, 1999, Sherif saw Bockarie again in Liberia at an airfield in Margibi County as arms and ammunition were being delivered by airplane, which were then delivered to Taylor’s personal residence (White Flower) for distribution.
- When a dispute developed within the RUF between Bockarie and Issa Sesay, the RUF second-in-command, Taylor invited them both to come to Liberia to discuss the issue amicably. They were flown to Monrovia and, after discussion, it was determined that Sesay would be the new commander of the RUF. Taylor provided a house in Monrovia for use by the RUF.
Testimony concluded earlier then expected when Sherif complained of a headache. Judge Sebutinde therefore adjourned the proceedings until tomorrow 9.00 a.m.