Sierra Leonean Crime-Base Witness Called as Prosecution’s Second Witness


The Hague

January 8, 2007

On the second day of the trial, the Defense completed its cross-examination of Ian Smillie, the Prosecution’s expert on conflict diamonds.  In addition, the Prosecution called its second witness, a Sierra Leonean pastor who both witnessed and experienced violence at the hands of RUF/AFRC rebels in 1998 and testified to links between the rebels and Taylor/Liberia.

Cross-Examination of Smillie Concluded

Defense Counsel Terry Munyard continued to focus his cross-examination of Smillie on his reliability as an expert and the substance of his testimony about conflict diamonds.  For example, Munyard sought to establish that the UN report on the influence of conflict diamonds in West Africa contains incorrect data, most notably the Belgian statistics on the import of diamonds from Liberia.  Defense Counsel also probed differences between Smillie’s handwritten notes of an October 2000 meeting with Taylor and a typewritten version he prepared of those notes.  Munyard’s questions also sought to elicit that not all of the members of the UN expert panel that created the report deserve the qualification of “expert,” including Smillie himself.  

At various points during the cross-examination, the Defense suggested that Smillie and his colleagues on the expert panel had a hostile predisposition towards Taylor and they had preconceived notions on his culpability.  Smillie responded that this was not the case, and that the panel’s goal was to report what they had learned and that they had always tried to remain objective towards the information they reported.  Towards the end of the cross-examination when the Defense again raised the issue of preconceived hostility, Smillie remarked that he felt sorry (rather than hostile) for Taylor for not seizing the opportunity he had to bring peace to the region.

Admissibility of Prosecution’s Exhibits

Prosecutor Nick Koumjian then moved to enter all exhibits marked for identification during Smillie’s testimony into evidence.  Presiding Judge Sebutinde invited Counsel to comment on each exhibit individually.  The following exhibits were disputed by the Defense:

  • Video clips.  The Defense objected to admission into evidence of six video clips from the documentary “Blood Diamonds” on the grounds that much of the content did not relate to diamonds, and involved for the most part anonymous witnesses.  The Defense suggested that such evidence would more appropriately be offered through expected live witnesses to be called by the Prosecution.  The Defense also argued that diamond-related aspects of the clips could be introduced through Smillie.  The Prosecution responded that all of the clips related to diamonds and were relevant to demonstrate that the type of mining involved was labor intensive, and that exploitation of alluvial diamonds involved rebel control of the local the population.  The violence depicted in the proffered video clips was undeniably graphic and distressing to watch, but the Prosecution argued that it provided insight into the terror that had been experienced by the people of Sierra Leone.  After hearing argument, the Trial Chamber concluded that all six video clips were admissible under Rule 89(C), which broadly provides that the Court may admit any relevant evidence.  The Court further noted that, as the Defense’s objections went to issues of weight rather than admissibility, it would determine how much weight to give this evidence at the end of the trial.
  • UN Report: The Defense objected to admission into evidence of the UN Panel of Experts Report to the UN Security Council, arguing that only some of the panel members properly qualified as “experts.”  In particular, the Defense argued that Smillie was unqualified as an expert in comparison to other Panel members.  The Prosecution replied that the Report was a group effort, including input from all of the experts whose backgrounds the Defense reviewed this morning.  The Report contains both opinion and fact evidence, but its most significant aspects are the facts it delineates linking diamonds and arms shipments.   It was issued in December 2000 during the indictment period and, according to the Prosecution, provided further notice to Taylor that the RUF was committing atrocities and trafficking diamonds through Liberia.  The Trial Chamber concluded that the Report was admissible under Rule 89(C), as the issues raised by the Defense went to the weight of the document rather than to its relevance.
  • Smillie’s Report: The Defense objected to admission of Smillie’s Report.  In addition to arguments raised earlier against admission of the UN Report, the Defense emphasized that Smillie had never testified as an expert before any other court.   In addition, the Defense argued that Smillie conceded that the Belgian import figures in his report were unreliable, as were his estimates of Liberian diamond production.  The Prosecution countered that there is no person better qualified to opine on the role of diamonds in conflict, recounting Smillie’s extensive meetings with diamond industry representatives, his deep involvement in the Kimberley Process (a joint governments, industry and civil society effort to stem the flow of conflict diamonds), and his knowledge of Sierra Leone.  The Trial Chamber was satisfied within the framework of the Special Court’s Statute and Rules that Smillie had exhibited special skills and knowledge in the field of diamonds, which qualified him as an expert.  Again, the Court admitted Smillie’s Report, holding that the Defense’s objections only addressed the weight of the evidence contained therein rather than the relevance of the evidence. 
  • Letter & Photographs:  The Defense objected to the admission of a letter allegedly from Samuel Bockarie (aka “Mosquito”, Commander in Chief of the RUF in 1998 and most of 1999) “to whom it may concern” granting diamond mining rights in Sierra Leone, as well as four photographs of an aircraft allegedly used to transport arms into Liberia, on the grounds that there was no proof of these documents’ origin and authenticity.  The Prosecution argued that, for international tribunals, it is standard practice that questions of a document’s authenticity go to weight.  Judge Sebutinde concluded that it was the “majority view” (apparently with Judge Lussick disagreeing) that these documents were admissible, and agreed with the Prosecution that questions concerning authenticity and origin go to weight rather than relevance. 

Testimony of Crime-Base Witness, Alex Tamba Teh

Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura examined Alex Tamba Teh, a 47-year-old pastor born in Tombodu, Kamara in Kono District. Teh, a small man with mustache and glasses in a dark suit with spotted tie, was sworn in as a witness, and touched the Bible to his forehead as he did so. Teh was formerly a protected witness known as “TF 015″ but waived his right to testify in closed session.

Teh testified concerning certain incidents occurring in Kono District in April 1998. He and his family fled Koidu town with others after rebels attacked the town. He said that he was subsequently captured by gunmen and eventually taken with 250 men, women and children to Sunna Mosque. Teh testified about various rebel acts of violence, including:

  • Rebels shooting and killing a man accused by them of previously having escaped.
  • Counting as many as 50 corpses on the way to Sunna Mosque, including men, women and small children.
  • In Igbaleh, “Rocky,” an RUF commander, told Teh pray for everybody and then called for his “bargege” (apparently a machine gun), which he used to shoot to death 101 civilian men. Rocky then gave instructions to SBUs (small boy units composed of boys under the age of 15 or 16 years), some of whom couldn’t lift their weapons, to decapitate the dead, which was done.
  • Also in Igbaleh, Teh testified about a boy, perhaps 16 years old, whose arms and legs were cut off with a machete, who was then tossed into a toilet pit.
  • Rebels used razors or knives to carve “RUF” on the front and “AFRC” on the backs of civilians.
  • In Wondedu, women were used as sexual slaves and raped by the rebels.
  • Civilians were also used as “manpower,” forced to travel far distances to find food for the rebels.
  • In Wondedu village, AFRC Captain KS Banya ordered SBUs to “go light candles,” which Teh explained meant for them to go and burn down houses.  He personally witnessed five houses burnt down by SBUs.
  • After rebel commanders voted to spare Teh’s life by a narrow majority, Banya forced Teh to put a stick in his mouth and knocked out most of his teeth on his upper and lower jaw by hitting him with the barrel of a pistol. Teh showed the Court his injuries and the false teeth he wears to assist in speaking.
  • Teh testified that he was taken to see “Mosquito” (later identified as Borbor Samai, and identified by the Prosecution in its opening statement as Sam Bockarie) at ”Superman Ground” in Buedu/Burkina, in Kono.  This was a camp where “Superman” (third in command of the RUF), “Rambo” and other top rebel commanders resided.

Teh testified about some connections to Liberia and Taylor, including the following:

  • Rocky disclosed to Teh that his real name was Emmanuel Williams and that he was from Liberia.
  • Teh was present in Buedu/Burkina when Mosquito was on his satellite phone. Teh heard Mosquito say “yes, ok sir” and then tell his men that he needed to go to Liberia and had a call from Liberia.
  • Teh testified that when Mosquito offered him the choice between joining the rebels with the rank of major or death, he replied that the position was too small in stature and requested the rank of field marshal.  Mosquito laughed and said that his boss, Ghankay Taylor, was not even a five star general.
  • Teh testified that he and other civilians were taken by the rebels to Dawa to transport arms and ammunition from there back to Buedu.  In Dawa, he saw a helicopter marked “Liberia Airways” or something similar from which arms and ammunitions were unloaded.  Teh stated that the weapons and ammunition were distributed and later used to attack Kono and displace the ECOMOG troops stationed there.  This occurred in November 1998 and fighting took place in January 1999.
  • Teh recalled hearing Charles Taylor’s voice on BBC radio program in 1991 warning the then-president of Sierra Leone that if the country was allowed to serve as an ECOMOG base (i.e., a base for the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, a West African multilateral armed force), in 90 days it would “taste the bitterness of war.” 

Cross-Examination of Teh

Defense Counsel Andrew Cayley began by expressing the Defense’s sympathy for the violence Teh had seen in his life and said it was not the Defense that had chosen to bring him to The Hague.  Cayley then questioned Teh on the series of statements he had made to Court officials over the past five years, seeking to identify discrepancies between his direct testimony and his prior statements.  For example, Cayley noted that Teh’s January 2004 statement did not reference a statement to Mosquito that he wanted to be appointed as a Field Marshall, and Mosquito’s reference to his boss, Ghankay Taylor.  Other suggested inconsistencies involved the number and color of helicopters in Dawa and the number of times Teh visited Mosquito in Buedu. 

Teh repeatedly responded to such challenges by asserting that he had previously made the statements at issue to Prosecution officials and was currently testifying under oath.  As the exchanges between Defense Counsel and the witness became more contentious, Judge Sebutinde urged Cayley at one point to be fair to the witness, and later cautioned Teh not to lose his temper as Defense Counsel was just doing his job.  Teh eventually conceded that he was under pressure during the events at issue, and that, while he has a strong recollection of some events, he does not recall everything because of the duress he faced.

At the end of the day’s proceedings, Cayley indicated that cross-examination of Teh will continue and conclude tomorrow, and Presiding Judge Sebutinde adjourned the proceedings for the day.