NPFL Insider “Zigzag” Marzah Alleges Taylor Ordered Atrocities in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and Traded Arms for Diamonds with the RUF

The Hague

March 12, 2008

This morning the Prosecution sought to call a new witness and applied to the judges to limit the scope and length of that witness’s examination and cross-examination. The judges denied the request for limits on cross-examination, and the new witness, Joseph D. “Zigzag” Marzah, took the stand. Marzah said he was with Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) from the very beginning to the very end and had risen to become Taylor’s Chief of Operations. He recounted numerous atrocities committed in Liberia and Sierra Leone, all of which he said had been ordered by Taylor. He also claimed that near the end of the Sierra Leonean conflict, Taylor ordered him to execute Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander Issa Sesay, who was cooperating in the peace process at the time. In addition to Taylor’s orders, Marzah alleged that Taylor directly participated in the burying alive of a pregnant woman in Monrovia. Marzah detailed alleged arms-for-diamonds trading between Taylor and the RUF in Sierra Leone.

Legal arguments on limiting the scope of cross-examination

Lead Prosecutor Brenda Hollis began the day by explaining to the judges that rather than continue with the witness who was still testifying at the end of the day yesterday (Isaac Mongor), the Prosecution would seek to call a new witness. The Trial Chamber had earlier denied a closed session for this witness, and in light of that ruling the witness was only willing to testify if additional measures were put in place to protect him and his family. For logistical reasons not described in court, these protective measures could only be undertaken this week and shortly after the witness’s return home. For this reason, the witness would be unavailable after Friday. The Prosecution applied to the Chamber to limit direct examination to one day, and the Defense’s cross-examination to one-and-a-half days, or two days if the Court would sit exceptionally in the afternoon on Friday. Hollis cited legal precedents for such limitations on the length of the cross-examination.

Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths argued that he did not know what the witness would say, and therefore would not be fulfilling his duty to his client if he agreed in advance to limit his cross-examination. He argued that the Chamber has an overriding duty to justice and fairness, and that concerns for witness safety and protection should not limit the right of the accused to a fair trial, including the right to full cross-examination. Griffiths cited various provisions of the Special Court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, as well as a legal ruling at the Yugoslav Tribunal.

After hearing a reply from Hollis, who argued that the rights of victims and witnesses must be in balance with the rights of the accused, the judges retired from the courtroom to consider the arguments. Upon returning, Presiding Judge Teresa Doherty announced their ruling: that it would not be in the interests of justice to grant the Prosecution’s request for limits on cross-examination. The prosecution nonetheless called the new witness to the stand, in hopes that he might complete his testimony before the week ends.

Direct examination of “Zigzag” Marzah

The new witness was Joseph D. “Zigzag” Marzah (TF1-399), a Liberian of the Gio tribe. Marzah testified that he was one of 17 members of Taylor’s NPFL who invaded Liberia from Ivory Coast on December 24, 1989, when his direct commander was Prince Johnson. After early infighting in the NPFL, Taylor ordered Marzah’s release from a container burned by NPFL Special Forces, in which around 20 other Johnson loyalists died. Marzah swore his loyalty to Taylor and fought under his command. Marzah testified that while Prince Johnson’s forces were disciplined if they abused civilians, under Taylor they were encouraged to rape and loot; he alleged that before Taylor became president of Liberia, his forces did not receive a salary, but were encouraged by Taylor to compensate themselves by stealing from civilians. He described NPFL checkpoints where human intestines were used as rope and strung across the road, and human heads were placed on sticks; he said that Taylor had seen many of these checkpoints.

Marzah described Taylor’s introduction of Foday Sankoh to the NPFL. Later, after Marzah said Taylor had developed complete trust in him, Taylor allegedly sent Marzah to accompany Sankoh on a second incursion into Sierra Leone in 1991, where Sankoh was to become a leader. Marzah said that when his NPFL men captured Koindu, Sierra Leone, Sankoh cried over the dead civilians and soldiers and burned houses. Marzah said he called Taylor on the radio to complain of Sankoh’s weakness, and that Taylor assured him Sankoh would get used to it.

Marzah described serving in a number of NPFL units after his return to Liberia, including the “Death Squad”, responsible for executing soldiers who did not obey Taylor’s orders.

Marzah testified that when the ULIMO faction controlled Lofa County, Taylor gave him money to buy kola nuts and bribe Guinean border officials to take the nuts into Guinea. After this worked twice, the new route and relationships were used to transport arms and ammunition, hidden under the kola nuts, to Kissidugu, from where they were transported to the Liberian embassy in Guinea for onward smuggling to the RUF in Sierra Leone.

Marzah said that after ULIMO disarmed to join a government of national unity, the roads to Sierra Leone were open to him, and he took between 20 and 40 shipments of arms and ammunition to the RUF, always at Taylor’s order. Marzah described some of these deliveries, and said that when he rode at the front of the convoy, they were never stopped at checkpoints because everyone knew he was Taylor’s Chief of Operations.

The Prosecution asked Marzah about diamonds, and he testified that he had escorted diamonds or people carrying diamonds to Taylor on many occasions. He described in detail one very large diamond brought by Sam Bockarie (“Mosquito”) to Taylor. Marzah said Taylor was impressed and gave himself and Bockarie money, along with a large quantity of ammunition to take back to Sierra Leone. He then described a subsequent trip with Bockarie to deliver a jar of diamonds to Taylor, and Taylor’s decision to introduce Bockarie to officials in Burkina Faso who could sell weapons to the RUF. Shortly thereafter, a large Russian cargo plane brought arms and ammunition to Roberts International Airport in Monrovia, and Marzah stated that it contained many truckloads of material. Marzah said it took him 5-6 trips with two trucks to take it all to Sierra Leone.

Marzah testified that Taylor later ordered him to bring Sam Bockarie with his men from Sierra Leone, in order to end the RUF infighting between Bockarie and Issa Sesay. Bockarie and his men were integrated into various military and police units in Liberia, and many were sent by Taylor to fight in Ivory Coast. Prosecutor Nick Koumjian asked whether Taylor had ever given him an order regarding RUF commander Issa Sesay. Marzah said that when he was in Kono, he received an order from Taylor to execute Sesay because he had signed some papers as part of the peace agreement, which Taylor regarded as a betrayal. Marzah was not successful in executing Sesay.

At the Prosecution’s request, Marzah went on to describe executions he had conducted under Taylor’s orders. He described several massacres of civilians in Liberia ordered by Taylor because he said the civilians had collaborated with his enemies. This included a massacre of 600 at Camp Carter. In one massacre in and around Gbarnga, Marzah said he and his men had cut open the bellies of pregnant women and killed babies. He also described an NPFL ambush of loyalists of Prince Johnson on the day that Johnson captured Samuel Doe, the President of Liberia, and alleged that Taylor ordered him and his men to kill all 72 of the Johnson men with knives.

Following the lunch break, Court went into a very brief private session without the witness, at the request of the Prosecution. Just minutes later, the open session resumed.

Marzah testified that when Taylor joined the six-person interim presidency in Liberia in 1995, he ordered a ceremony to be conducted. He allegedly sent men, including Marzah and Benjamin Yeaten, to bring a pregnant woman from the streets of Monrovia. The woman was stripped naked and placed in a pit dug on the beach behind Taylor’s residence. She pleaded for her life, but, according to Marzah, Taylor threw in the first sand and then his men buried her alive. He stated that Taylor then held a white sheep by its horns while his men sacrificed it over the buried woman.

Marzah described a massacre of around 80 civilians in the town of Kammantahun, carried out by Benjamin Yeaten, but blamed on him. He testified that Taylor gave him a red motorcycle in order to stop him from proclaiming his innocence at a massacre Marzah found disturbing – because he said that Taylor wanted to cover up for Yeaten.

Marzah described the execution of RUF commander Superman, which allegedly was organized by Yeaten at Taylor’s order. Taylor believed that Superman had betrayed him. Marzah described Superman subsequently being beheaded and dismembered, with his hand delivered to Taylor as proof of the execution. Marzah said that he and the other men on the mission cooked and ate Superman’s heart at Yeaten’s house, which was next to Taylor’s. Similarly, Marzah described the execution of Jungle (Daniel Tamba) in Sierra Leone, allegedly on the orders of Benjamin Yeaten. Marzah also testified that he spoke with a soldier named Sweet Candy, who was wearing the jacket of AFRC leader Johnny Paul Koroma. Sweet Candy told Marzah that Koroma had been executed at the command of Charles Taylor because Taylor claimed that Koroma had betrayed him.

Marzah testified that Taylor sometimes called him “my son”. Koumjian then stated that he had no further questions for the witness.

Cross-examination of Marzah begins

Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths began the cross-examination by recounting with the witness all of the atrocities he had personally committed. Marzah stated that he didn’t know how many people he had killed, but more than hundreds. He confirmed that he had killed babies and cut open the bellies of pregnant women at Taylor’s command.

Griffiths asked Marzah if he had any pangs of conscience. Marzah said yes, but that he had carried out the killings in order to protect himself, his family and his property, because Taylor would take retribution against anyone not following orders. Griffiths challenged Marzah to cite specific instances where Taylor had ordered pregnant women to be cut open. Marzah responded by saying that when fighting in Gbarnga, Taylor sent him a specific message over the radio to gut a pregnant woman in retribution against the local population. Griffiths then challenged Marzah to describe a specific instance where Taylor had ordered him to kill a baby. Marzah said that after the NPFL had captured Gbarnga, Taylor formed a unit called “No Baby on Target”, and gave them instructions to kill any baby they saw. Marzah testified that after they carried out this instruction, they reported it to Taylor and received money.

Griffiths asked Marzah if he had any regrets about “this wickedness”. Marzah responded: “I regret nothing. I don’t regret an inch.”

Griffiths asked Marzah why he hadn’t fled instead of committing these atrocities, and Marzah said he had a large property and 24 children of his own to protect in Liberia.

When Griffiths asked where the executions had all taken place, Marzah said that most had been carried out in Sierra Leone and Guinea, with some in Liberia. In the course of this questioning, Marzah stated that he had participated in the invasion of Freetown. Griffiths asked if he had participated in conducting amputations, and Marzah said he had, on the orders of Taylor.

As the day’s testimony came to a close, Griffiths asked, “Are you saying that Charles Taylor told you on the radio or phone to cut off people’s limbs?”

Marzah responded, “So many times.”

The cross-examination will resume tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.