“So you think the accused has blood on his hands?”: Defense Challenges Prosecution Witness Corinne Dufka’s Impartiality; Prosecution Calls Linkage Witness Abu Keita

The Hague


January 22, 2008


The Prosecution continued its examination of Corinne Dufka, a Senior Researcher with the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. Defense Counsel Terry Munyard began his cross-examination of the witness, questioning her impartiality. Munyard attempted to diminish Dufka’s credibility as an expert witness by showing her lack of formal training in anthropology, sociology, African history, and law. He also attacked the credibility of Human Rights Watch reporting standards. The Court released Dufka and accepted the Defense team’s request for submissions regarding the nature of expert witnesses and the status of Dufka as an expert witness. The Prosecution then called linkage witness Abu Keita.


Prosecution Continues Examination of Corinne Dufka


Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura questioned Dufka regarding sexual violence committed from 1991-2002 during the Sierra Leonean Civil War. Dufka noted three Human Rights Watch documents produced on the topic of sexual violence in the conflict in Sierra Leone: (1) “We’ll Kill You if you Cry,” researched and written by a Human Rights Watch consultant and researched by Dufka, (2) “Sexual Violence within the Sierra Leone Conflict,” researched and written by Dufka, and (3) a press release regarding sexual violence committed around May 2000 in Sierra Leone. Her research included scores of interviews with women of all ages and all ethnic groups.


Dufka spoke about the general nature of sexual violence in Sierra Leone:

  • Members of rebel factions committed the vast majority of abuses, which occurred in the course of rebel attacks and after abducted women were taken to rebel camps. Other groups that committed a minority of the violations included the CDF and UN personnel. Human Rights Watch documented no sexual abuses committed by ECOMOG.
  • The sexual violence included single and gang rapes, sexual slavery, rape with objects, abduction, and forced labor. Many of the women became combatants themselves or became pregnant after being raped by combatants, and subsequently faced difficulties reintegrating into their communities.
  • Rebels committed these crimes with the intent to terrorize and humiliate both the women and their families. These crimes often preceded or followed additional war crimes.

Over an objection from Defense Counsel Terry Munyard regarding relevance, Dufka referred to crimes against civilians in Liberia from 1999 to 2002 based on approximately 300 interviews conducted in refugee camps in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Dufka primarily addressed the issue of refugees from Lofa Country in Northern Liberia, who fled to Sierra Leone because they had faced assaults from Liberian pro-government troops. Although both LURD and pro-government forces committed abuses, Dufka’s interviews revealed that pro-government forces, such as the SSS (Special Security Service), ATU (Antiterrorist Unit), AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia), Army Division, Marine Division, and Jungle Fighter Unit, committed the majority of atrocities. Dufka stated that Lofa County was the center of many of these atrocities because it had strategic importance for both the Liberian government and the Liberian rebels.


With regard to the issue of notice regarding crimes against civilians in Liberia, Dufka stated that “Back to the Brink” was disseminated to diplomatic missions, as well as international and national press. Dufka noted that a number of press releases, including “Deteriorating Human Rights Situation in Liberia” and “Liberian Refugees in Guinea” had attracted the attention of the Liberian government. Newspaper reports from Reuters, AP, and AFP revealed that Liberian officials did not concur with Human Rights Watch findings, implying that they were on notice of the findings. These Liberian government officials included Charles Taylor, Minister of Information Reginald Goodridge, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Monie Captan.


Bangura also questioned Dufka on a portion of her report submitted to the Court regarding Liberia’s involvement in the conflict in Sierra Leone:

  • Dufka interviewed two RUF combatants with knowledge of Liberian involvement in the conflict in Sierra Leone. One of the interviewees noted the high percentage of Liberians within RUF forces. This percentage decreased as aggressive recruiting of Sierra Leoneans began and as disputes between the Sierra Leonean and Liberian components of the RUF increased.
  • Further instances of Liberian involvement in Sierra Leone stemmed from nine interviews with victims who identified a Liberian as their attacker during the January 6, 1999, invasion of Freetown. Sometimes the attackers identified themselves as Liberians and other times the victims identified the attackers as Liberians based on their accents.

Bangura further questioned Dufka on the role of Sierra Leoneans in these conflicts:

  • Sierra Leoneans formed approximately half of the former combatants Dufka interviewed for “Youth, Poverty and Blood.” She stated that these combatants fought in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Cote D’Ivoire. Dufka noted the “regional dynamic” of conflicts in West Africa and argued that governments of one country commonly tried to destabilize governments and fighting forces of other countries. According to Dufka, “At any given time you had one group supporting a proxy group attempting to overthrow neighboring governments.”
  • Dufka has written about Sierra Leoneans fighting for the RUF. The RUF were integrated into Liberian pro-government factions after Sam Bockarie and Foday Sankoh’s relationship became strained in 1999. The RUF were involved in Lofa County in 1999 in response to the “Mosquito Spray” incident. From 2000 to 2001 the RUF was involved in attacks on Guinea. Sam Bockarie, Benjamin Yeaten, a man named Peleto, and Charles Taylor allegedly issued orders during these operations.

With regard to atrocities committed against Sierra Leonean civilians, Dufka commented on two photographs she took of girls who suffered amputations. Dufka was then shown and commented on three video clips in which she was featured, as well as a video clip from Soldiers of Fortune, previously admitted during the testimony of Ian Smillie. The footage from Soldiers of Fortune chronicled two common types of abuses: amputation and sexual abuses. Dufka characterized amputation as the “signature atrocity” of rebel groups and referred to “We’ll Kill You if You Cry” when addressing sexual violence. Taylor was not wearing his headphones during this portion of the trial and appeared not to be watching the screen of his computer while the video clips aired.


The Court upheld Munyard’s objection to testimony regarding cross-border attacks on Guinea as outside the temporal scope of the indictment.


During Bangura’s examination of Dufka, the Court warned Bangura numerous times to avoid leading questions. At one point when Bangura claimed that he was assisting the witness in locating information within various documents, Presiding Judge Doherty stated that Bangura should submit the reports into evidence or stop leading the witness with conclusory remarks from her reports. At another point, Presiding Judge Doherty looked at Munyard when Bangura continued to ask leading questions.


Defense Rigorously Cross-Examines Corinne Dufka

Defense Counsel Terry Munyard conducted the cross-examination of Corinne Dufka.


The Defense team’s cross-examination attempted to discredit Dufka as an expert witness, as well as discredit her report submitted to the Court. Munyard attacked Dufka’s credibility on four main grounds: (1) impartiality; (2) qualifications as an expert, (3) methods of reporting, and (4) temporal and geographical limitations based on the scope of the indictment.

  1. Impartiality. Munyard repeatedly questioned Dufka regarding her views on Taylor’s guilt. Although she was reluctant to proclaim Taylor’s guilt or innocence, repeatedly stating that the accused had a “case to answer,” Presiding Judge Doherty ordered Dufka to answer Munyard’s question directly. Dufka stated that Taylor is implicated in various war crimes and conceded that she believes he is guilty based on the Defense team’s definition of guilt. Munyard also emphasized that Dufka worked for the OTP of the Special Court for one year and interviewed at least 18 witnesses for this case.
  2. Qualifications. Munyard tried to establish the limitations of Dufka’s expertise by arguing that she has no qualifications in anthropology, sociology, history, West African history, or law. Munyard referred to Binaifer Nowrojee, Counsel to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, and Alison Des Forges, a of Human Rights Watch consultant, who were both rejected as expert witnesses in a case before the ICTR ([pdf] Prosecutor v. Karemera et al.). According to the witness, Nowrojee is more experienced than herself on the subject matter of gender related crimes, but Des Forges does not have more knowledge on West African history.
  3. Methods. Munyard made numerous challenges to the methods used by both Dufka and Human Rights Watch in researching and writing reports.
    • Munyard confronted Dufka regarding Human Rights Watch’s emphasis on maintaining the confidentiality of victims, which may increase the risk of biased or exaggerated testimony. In addition, Munyard argued that the use of testimonies of confidential witnesses/victims conflicts with the defendant’s right to a fair trial, because he will not be able to verify whether certain accusations and alleged atrocities did in fact take place. Dufka explained that Human Rights Watch employees receive special training on how to minimize the effects of bias, but she admitted that the use of confidential testimony could affect the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
    • Munyard also challenged the accuracy of figures and statistics used in Dufka’s reports, as well as other Human Rights Watch reports. Use of ambiguous phrases, such as “at least” and “dozens” provide an arguably imprecise description of the number of interviews conducted.
    • Munyard questioned Dufka regarding the use of group interviews, which increase the possibility of exaggeration and bias. Although Dufka claimed that she only used group interviews for leads, she could not attest to the methods used by other Human Rights Watch employees with regard to group interviews.
    • Munyard raised the issue of the reliability of documents cited in Dufka’s reports. Although she could not verify every fact cited from other sources based on independent, first-hand knowledge, she noted that citations to other sources assume that the original source is accurate.
    • Munyard challenged the distribution of reports to diplomatic missions. Dufka explained that it is common practice within Human Right Watch to send reports to diplomatic missions as well as to the press, but that this was not her responsibility and she could not guarantee whether government leaders actually received any of the reports in question.
  4. Geographical and temporal limitations. Munyard cross-examined Dufka extensively on the temporal and geographical scope of the various reports produced by herself and other Human Right Watch employees, as well as Dufka’s report prepared for the Court. Dufka confirmed that portions of the various reports (and in some cases the vast majority of a specific report) fall outside the temporal and geographic scope of the indictment against the accused.

After Munyard finished his cross-examination of Dufka, Prosecutor Bangura asked the Court to introduce into evidence Dufka’s report submitted to the Court. The Defense objected on the same grounds presented yesterday.

Court Grants Defense Motion for Submissions on Expert Status of Corinne Dufka

Munyard reiterated two concerns regarding Dufka: (1) that the gathering of witness testimony does not classify Dufka as an expert, and (2) that Dufka’s involvement with the OTP and her statements show that she is not an impartial witness (a qualification required of expert witnesses). The Defense requested written submissions regarding (1) the definition of an “expert” in general, (2) whether Dufka qualifies as an expert, and (3) whether the reports tendered through Dufka are admissible. The Court granted the Defense team’s request and gave the Defense until close of business on Monday, January 28, 2008, to file its submission. The Prosecution has until Friday, February 1, 2008, to submit a response, and the Defense has until Thursday, February 7, 2008, to submit any reply.


The Court excused Dufka and explained to her that she was free to go because any remaining issues regarding her testimony were questions of law.

Prosecution Calls Linkage Witness Abu Keita

Prosecutor Nick Koumjian called linkage witness Abu Keita to the stand. Varmuyan Sherif, a former member of Taylor’s security force and Liberian army commander, referred to Keita during his testimony on January 9, 2008. 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.


The witness appeared in traditional African dress and was sworn in with a Quran. He testified in Liberian English.


Keita, a Mandingo, was born in Zorzor, Lofa County and grew up in Grand Cape Mount County. He joined the AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia) in 1990. The Sierra Leonean army later disarmed AFL, and Keita joined the LUDF (Liberia United Defense Force) in Sierra Leone. Albert Karpeh founded LUDF to fight against the RUF, which was attacking Sierra Leone. The LUDF received weapons from the Sierra Leonean government and fought against the RUF in Sierra Leone.


LUDF later became ULIMO under Alhaji Kromah, and ULIMO split into ULIMO-K and ULIMO-J. Roosevelt Johnson led ULIMO-J. Kromah led ULIMO-K. ULIMO-K joined forces with the NPFL. Keita was a General with ULIMO-K until disarmed in 1996.


The trial will resume tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m.