January 15, 2008
Prosecutor Christopher Santora resumed his direct examination of Dennis Koker today. Charles Taylor, wearing his gold-trimmed glasses and dressed in a gray pinstriped suit, sat quietly throughout the proceedings. Santora’s examination of Koker focused on the movement of RUF and Junta forces throughout Sierra Leone; the capture, enslavement and treatment of civilians; and the delivery of arms from Liberia into Sierra Leone. The Defense started its cross-examination of Koker immediately after his direct examination was completed at 2:30 p.m., at the start of the afternoon session.
Koker Described the RUF Forces’ Movement Through Sierra Leone
Koker testified that he was born in the Bo District of Sierra Leone and subsequently moved to the Kailahun District in January 1991. Before joining the army, Koker worked as an artist and he used those skills at the Juba Barracks where he served a sign writer, responsible for logos and decorations on army vehicles. Koker joined the army in 1991 and his first assignment was VIP protection for member of the Supreme Council of State S. B. Jumu. He held this position until the NPRC Government was overthrown in January 1996 when he was relocated to the Juba Barracks in Freetown to work for the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Unit.
In February 1998, the AFRC was driven from Freetown by ECOMOG. Koker testified that a large group of 5,000 people, consisting of men, women and children, left the city traveling together on foot — many carrying their property — and in vehicles. He detailed their arrival in Tombo, where they boarded boats to cross the river to Fogbo. When they arrived in Masiaka, there were more people than the town could contain. Koker testified that all of the soldiers from Freetown were present, as well as rebels. Koker identified the rebel commanders that were present in Masiaka, including Eldred Collins, Jumu Jalloh, and Pa Kosia. He stated that, at the time, Issa Sesay was second in command in the RUF. He also described the treatment of civilians in Masiaka and surrounding villages, reporting that the RUF and Juntas were capturing civilians and forcing them to carry looted property for them.
Koker stated that the group left Masiaka and walked through the night to Makeni. In Makeni, he saw houses being looted and burned. Issa Sesay issued an order to stop the burning, but these orders were only followed when the RUF and Juntas starting shooting the arsonists. Koker also stated that civilians were being captured and women were being forced to become their captor’s wives.
Koker testified that it took his group a week to get to Koidu from Freetown. He identified the commanders who were present in Koidu, including Issa Sesay and Dennis Mingo (Superman), a Liberian operations commander who led the attack on Koidu. He also identified AFRC commanders who were in Koidu, including Alex Tamba Brima, Honourable Sammi, Johnny Paul Koroma and Pa Morlai. While in Koidu, Koker testified that he saw Issa Sesay speaking on a satellite phone with Sam Bockarie. He could tell Issa Sesay was speaking with Sam Bockarie because he referred to him as “Master.”
Koker also provided a detailed description of “Operation No Living Thing” that took place while he was in Koidu. Forces were burning all of the houses in the town and surrounding areas at the order of the commanders. This order, carried out by RUF and the Juntas, was designed to scorch the earth and make it impossible for ECOMOG or government troops to stay in Koidu.
Koker also testified regarding an incident where the RUF and AFRC forces broke into a bank in Koidu and took diamonds and money. He described the large bags of money and testified that he did not want to be responsible for transporting this money. Eldred Collins assigned Koker and Staff Sergeant Saliu Kanneh to deliver the money. Koker believed that following this order would be a disgrace to his family. When he arrived in Baoma, he saw Kanneh who had accompanied the money. He was naked and told Koker that he had been accused of stealing part of the money. Koker testified that the money and diamonds were being taken to Liberia. His colleagues informed him that the money would be taken to Charles Taylor. The witness stated that he did not see the money being handed to Charles Taylor, but he was informed that the money was going to Liberia.
Brutal Treatment of Women and Children
Throughout his direct examination, Koker described the brutal treatment inflicted on civilians. His account was not limited to women and children, as he also described the recruitment of “manpower” for the forces. Koker recalled one instance where he was punished and sent on a mission where he was forced to recruit additional manpower. Major Tom Sandy sent seven military police (”MP’s”) to Dodo and Gelema. In Gelema, the MP’s saw two civilians who were fleeing and captured them. The civilians were stripped naked and tied up to keep them from escaping. All of their civilian property was taken and given to one MP. The MP’s captured 50 civilians on this mission and brought them back to Beudu where they were forced to clear fields for an airstrip that was being constructed on Gokodu Road.
Koker also testified about his responsibilities as a military police officer, which included watching over prisoners of war. This assignment came directly from Sam Bockarie (Mosquito). When commanders captured civilians, they sent them to Beudu where the conditions for civilians were not good. Koker explained that the civilians were forced to work without pay on the farms of commanders or were forced to carry heavy loads from one town to another for the commanders.
Koker testified about the capturing of women who were turned into the “wives” of the commanders. He likened this occurrence to “having tea to drink” because it was such a common practice. He also testified about the consequences for women who “overlooked” their commander husband. While stationed as a military police officer in Buedu, commanders would bring captured women into the station and state that they had disrespected them. The crying women would explain that they had been captured on the frontline. The commanders would order Koker to detain the women for being disrespectful. Koker described one specific instance where Victor Kallon, a Major in the RUF, brought in a captured woman to the station, stripped her down to her underwear and gave her 50 lashings. The woman explained that Victor Kallon had captured her and turned her into his wife. Koker said he was required to detain these women per the commanding officers’ orders.
Koker also testified about the treatment of children who were separated from their families and forced to fight with guns for the RUF. These children were 12 to 14 years old and Koker would inquire about their age in secret because they were too young to participate. These children were part of the SBU — Small Boys Unit. Koker stated that they were taken from their families and given guns, despite the fact that they were not fit for military work.
The Delivery of Arms from Liberia into Sierra Leone
Koker testified about the delivery of arms and ammunition from Liberia into Sierra Leone as well as his participation in the off-loading of arms delivered from Liberia to Sam Bockarie’s home on Dawa Road in Buedu. From Buedu, Dawa Road leads to Foya Tinkia, right across the border in Liberia. Koker testified about four separate occasions where convoys from Liberia brought arms into Sierra Leone via Sam Bockarie’s house. He was personally present for two of these shipments.
In July 1998, Koker was sent to help off-load a delivery. Koker stated that seven or more people from Liberia arrived in an NGO Land Cruiser and a red jeep. The individuals in the convoy spoke with a Liberian dialect and wore camouflage and black caps. Some had polo T-shirts that said NPFL Navy Rangers. The shirts, Koker said, were sky blue, navy blue and black mixed camouflaged. They had brought “material”, which was a code name for ammunition, and included: rocket-propelled grenade tubes and bombs, a jet-tracer gun designed to shoot down Alpha jets used by ECOMOG, anti-tank mines, and anti-personnel mines, .50 caliber ammunition, mortars, and TNT. Koker was sent to the ammunition dump where the material was unloaded, listed, and stored.
The second shipment Koker observed involved more vehicles and happened within a month of the previous incident. Koker testified that he was present at Sam Bockarie’s house when the vehicles arrived. Koker stated that he was able to identify the group as Liberians based on the way they talked. Mosquito arrived with the Liberians, including General Fayah. The vehicles in the convoy included Land Cruisers, cars, and trucks. Koker stated that he was charged with listing out the materials that arrived and then presenting the list to Tom Sandy, who delivered it to Mosquito. Koker testified that he saw the materials, which included: AK ammunition, G-3 guns, G-3 ammunition, many RPG tubes and bombs, mines, mortar bombs, heavy machine guns (HMG’s) and ammunition. There was also rice on top of the guns in one of the trucks. Koker further stated that some of the Liberians were dressed in military uniforms and carried guns.
Defense Counsel Commences Cross-Examination of Koker
In the afternoon session, Defense Counsel Morris Anyah began his cross-examination of Koker. Anyah questioned Koker regarding his participation in two other proceedings in Freeport involving Issa Sesay and Alex Tamba Brima. Koker confirmed that he had testified in both proceedings. Anyah also directed Koker through a series of questions highlighting the route Koker took to reach Freetown. Anyah spent much of the cross-examination this afternoon confronting Koker with statements made in the earlier AFRC proceedings and contrasting them to statements made in open court today. Anyah will continue his cross-examination of Koker tomorrow.
The trial will resume tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.