Prosecution Witness Describes Threats against Him and his Family in Sierra Leone; Cross-examination Continues

The Hague

April 28, 2008

Threats allegedly made to Sesay and his family

On his ninth day of testimony, the 23rd Prosecution witness — Alimamy Bobson Sesay, dressed in a white short-sleeved shirt — began with a dramatic announcement.   On Sunday morning at 9 a.m. he had received a phone call from his younger brother who lives in Freetown with a cousin.  Some men had entered the yard and the house, threatening them and telling them they were waiting for Sesay to return to Sierra Leone so they can “eliminate” him.  His brother and cousin have reported this incident to the local authorities.

Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian indicated that he had been informed of this incident and said he would further investigate the matter.  He again applied to have the public record redacted to remove references to locations of Sesay’s family members.  Defense Counsel Morris Anyah responded that proper steps had been taken to take the matter to the local authorities, but that this incident had no correlation to the testimony for the following reasons: (1) no names of people or streets were mentioned, (2) the witness has been giving evidence since 2006 relating to the RUF accused and therefore his name has since then been in the public domain, which has caused problems in the past, yet the witness has chosen to testify in open Court, and (3) the questions were relevant.  Anyah therefore objected to redaction of the public record.

The judges deliberated for quite some time, during which Judge Sebutinde asked the Prosecution about the circumstances under which it had been possible for the witness to receive an unsupervised phone call, to which both the Prosecution and the Registry had no answer.  Presiding Judge Doherty concluded that the Court: (1) noted the witness’s concern; (2) noted that the matter had been taken to the local authorities and (3) considered the evidence that the witness had given testimony in public in the past and therefore denied the Prosecution’s motion.

This matter being settled, Morris Anyah continued his cross-examination relating to subjects including Sesay meeting Isaac Mongor (previously a Prosecution witness in this trial) in The Hague as well as in Pedemba Road Prison; the source of arms and ammunition transports during the UN arms embargo in 1997 and 1998; the formation of the Special Task Force (STF) and the Red Lion Battalion, and the composition and amount of fighters therein.

During the day Charles Taylor showed a keen interest and took many notes.

West Side Boys

Sesay testified that in September 1998 Dennis Mingo (“Superman”), Mike Lamin and others were arrested by the West Side Boys. This arrest took place after the return of Johnny Paul Koroma.  At this time there were still RUF Commanders with the West Side Boys, such as Lieutenant Colonel Stagger and Captain Junior.  In October 1999, there were approximately 1,000 members of the West Side Boys, including about 400 SBU’s.  According to the Witness, upon the arrest of Dennis Mingo, Mike Lamin and others, no RUF members tried to leave the West Side Boys, but he admitted that these arrests did have a negative effect on the relationship between the RUF and the West Side Boys.

Transportation of arms and ammunition

Sesay testified that during the period of May 25 until June 6, 1998 (the day of his arrest) he had no knowledge of reference to communications between RUF Commanders and/or AFRC Commanders and Charles Taylor about weapon deliveries.  Sesay heard (while he himself was present) Sam Bockarie mention to Dennis Mingo that the arms and ammunition came from Liberia through Charles Taylor.  Sesay has not heard direct radio communications between Sam Bockarie and Charles Taylor. Sesay has not had communications with John Paul Koroma between February 1998 and July 1999, so he had no knowledge of Koroma going to Liberia to obtain arms.

Sesay was shown a map of Liberia with the numbers of soldiers demobilized per region between November 1996 and February 1997, with a total of 21,315. Sesay gave evidence that even during this demobilization there were a lot of arms around, especially outside Monrovia.  Sesay was aware that in 1997 and 1998 there was an arms embargo in Sierra Leone and Liberia, but there was still fighting going on.

Sesay agreed that the arms and ammunition delivery at Magburaka Airfield took place in October 1997. He himself was present as was SO Williams, Chief of Staff, and many other RUF commanders.  Sesay knew Foday Lansana (17th Prosecution witness) and Perry Kamara (10th Prosecution witness), both radio operators, though he did not recall seeing them at that time at Magburaka Airfield.  When asked, Sesay testified that some said the weapons came from Ukraine, others said they came from Liberia, even though in the report of the OTP (Office of the Prosecutor) he only mentioned Ukraine.

Meetings with Isaac Mongor

When asked, Sesay testified that the last time he saw Isaac Mongor (20th Prosection witness) in Sierra Leone was in his former church, the Flaming Church.  When questioned further, he admitted that he has seen Mongor more recently here in The Netherlands where they share lodgings, but they have different apartments/rooms.  He agreed that he has spoken briefly with him during meals, exchanging greetings and talking about CNN news and sports, but he denied speaking with him about their evidence in this Court. He said it would not be possible to do so because of security personnel being present. He also denied having been in the same vehicle with him during their time in The Netherlands.

Sesay did not recall meeting or seeing Mongor at the weapons delivery at Makburaka Airfield, but does not deny the evidence Mongor gave about his presence there.  Sesay agreed to having been in Pedemba Road Prison at the same time as Isaac Mongor from June 6 2000 until 21 August 2004, but denied having had conversations with him about their past life, because they were at a distance and their movements there were restricted.

Ammunition delivery to defend Kailahun

Sesay testified that in April/May 1998 ammunition arrived to help defend Kailahun against ECOMOG. Sam Bockarie told Dennis Mingo about this beforehand over the radio. The boxes that arrived were green with black letters stating “AFL” and “Armed Forces Liberia”. During this time there was an arms embargo both in Sierra Leone and in Liberia.  Sesay said he had no knowledge of any other arms/ammunition deliveries from Liberia nor did he have knowledge of the RUF purchasing weapons from ULIMO in Lofah County during the period 1997-1998.

Sandline International

Defense Counsel Anyah put before the Witness a report from the New York Times dated May 13, 1998 entitled “US reportedly backed British Mercenary Force in Sierra Leone”. The report stated that Sandline International brought more than 100 tons of illegal arms into Sierra Leone.  Anyah asked Sesay if he ever captured boxes with weapons and/or ammunition with the word “Sandline” on it, which Sesay replied he did not.

Special Task Force (STF) and Red Lion Battalion

Sesay stated that the STF used to be part of ULIMO-K and consisted mostly of Liberians.  During the junta period, the STF joined the RUF and the AFRC. Anyah put before the Witness a document from Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the former President of Sierra Leone, to the Truth And Reconciliation Committee, and sought to establish:

  • that the SLA depended considerably on the STF for the defense of the country, meaning that the STF was anti-NPFL and anti-Charles Taylor;
  • that later the STF became part of ULIMO-J;
  • that the NPRC inherited the problem of ULIMO and insisted ULIMO-J and ULIMO-K become one;
  • that the NPRC then renamed them into a Special Task Force, included them in the army and accorded them a salary from the SLA;
  • that they joined the AFRC during the Junta period and worked against the Liberian Army. 

Sesay answered that former President Kabbah was chairman of the Advisory Counsel to the NPRC and that a lot of things he said he did not know because he had not been in the bush.

An extensive exchange took place concerning the formation of the Red Lion Battalion.  At last it was established that Sesay meant that the Red Lion Battalion at the start consisted of 200 fighters: more than 70 from the SLA, 20-30 from the RUF, 20 former NPFL fighters, 30 former STF fighters and 40-50 SBU’s and that it was formed by Alex Tamba Brima (“Gullit”) in the rebel camp at Colonel Eddie Town. Anyah observed that other witnesses have stated that the Red Lion Battalion was operative long before this time, to which Sesay replied that he did not to have any knowledge about this.  Anyah also noted that, according to the testimony of Foday Lansana, the Red Lion Battalion consisted of 1,000 fighters, but Sesay continued to stand by his testimony.

At 4.30 p.m. Court was adjourned until tomorrow 9.30 a.m.