Cross-examination of Isaac Mongor Ends; a New Prosecution Witness Takes the Stand

The Hague

April 7, 2008

The lengthy cross-examination of prosecution witness Isaac Mongor concluded on this, its sixth day. The Defense placed most of its emphasis on inconsistent accounts from the witness and there was some indication that it has had some success with this line of attack. At one point Judge Julia Sebutinde expressed frustration with Mongor, saying, “every time he’s asked a question we get a slightly different answer”. When the Defense had no further questions, the Prosecution conducted a brief re-examination and the judges heard arguments over the admissibility of a prosecution document before ruling in favor of the Prosecution on the question. Near the end of the day, Mongor was excused from the witness stand and the Prosecution called its next witness, who said he is a former member of the RUF who had been forcibly conscripted in 1991.

Cross-examination of Isaac Mongor concludes

Defense Counsel Terry Munyard began the day by questioning Mongor about payments he received from the Office of the Prosecution (OTP) and the Court’s Witness and Victim Service (WVS). Munyard then returned to questions regarding inconsistent accounts provided by Mongor in earlier interviews with the Prosecution and in his days of testimony before the Court.

Munyard worked through a prosecution document listing payments to the witness. Some payments were in the range of 15,000 to 50,000 Leones (about 5 to 17 US dollars), with reasons listed as transportation, meals and lost wages. 120,000 Leones (about 40 US dollars) was listed for “communication”, which Mongor explained was to buy top-up cards for his mobile phone. The Defense raised concern over dates listed in the document for which there were no interview notes provided by the Prosecution. Prosecutor Nick Koumjian assured Munyard that all interview notes in existence had been disclosed to the Defense, and Mongor testified that sometimes he was not paid on the day of the interview, but at a later date.

The Defense then questioned Mongor about support from the Witness and Victim Service (WVS), a unit of the Registry, or impartial administrative arm of the Court, which is also responsible for defense witnesses. Mongor came under WVS protection in March 2007, and he testified that he and his family moved to new housing at that time, for which the WVS paid the rent. The WVS also paid his family’s food, medical and childcare expenses, provided money for Mongor to visit his relatives in the provinces, and funds to replace a lost mobile phone so that he could maintain contact with the court. Total support for just over a year came to over 14,300,000 Leones (about 4,800 US dollars). Munyard asked whether most of the prosecution and WVS payments represented “benefits” to Mongor, and Mongor conceded that most of these payments covered expenses that he otherwise would have had to pay out of his own pocket.

Munyard then shifted to ask about a letter that Mongor received from Acting Prosecutor Christopher Staker in December 2006, in which the Prosecutor assured Mongor that no charges would be brought against him, and went on to state, “I trust this will help put your mind at ease”. Mongor said that he hadn’t known in advance that the letter was coming, but had been told during his first contact with the OTP that he would not be prosecuted. Munyard introduced this topic just before launching an attack on Mongor’s credibility related to a particularly damning allegation made by Mongor against Charles Taylor.

Mongor confirmed telling the Court in March that senior RUF commander Sam Bockarie had told him and other RUF commanders that on a visit to Monrovia, Bockarie and Taylor together had planned a series of attacks culminating in the invasion of Freetown that occurred on January 6, 1999. Mongor rejected Munyard’s suggestions that the attack on Freetown had been a project of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and that there had been significant tensions between the AFRC and RUF despite their formal cooperation. Munyard then confronted the witness with notes from an interview with the Prosecution in June 2007 in which Mongor told of an ammunition shipment that arrived from Liberia for the RUF before the AFRC coup in May 1997; the RUF top command decided not to inform the AFRC because there was some level of mistrust between the two organizations. Mongor confirmed the account and explained the discrepancy between this description of mistrust and his earlier insistence on a lack of mistrust by saying that it was Bockarie who had mistrust of the AFRC, while he himself had none. Munyard then asserted that Mongor had not got along well with an AFRC commander named Saj Musa. Mongor denied this, but then admitted to feeling relieved when he’d learned of Musa’s death because he didn’t cooperate well with the RUF.

Munyard then began to merge the themes of the prosecution’s letter to Mongor assuring his safety from prosecution with Mongor’s varying accounts of Taylor’s involvement in planning the Freetown invasion. Mongor admitted to telling prosecution investigators in his early interviews that he didn’t know about Taylor’s involvement, and only later telling them about it. Mongor said the change came when he decided to tell the truth and live with the consequences. He admitted to having an initial fear of prosecution, “a shaky heart”, despite the Prosecution’s assurances. When Munyard asked at how many interviews he had lied, Mongor said he didn’t remember. Munyard then suggested that with fear of prosecution, Mongor had decided to tell prosecution investigators who were “pressing” Mongor through repeated questions about Taylor what they wanted to hear. Mongor denied this.

Beyond the allegation about Taylor’s involvement in planning the January 1999 invasion of Freetown, Munyard suggested that Mongor had been lying about the 1997 delivery of ammunition to the RUF from Taylor. Munyard cast doubt on Mongor’s testimony about the timing of the delivery, establishing that Mongor was unfamiliar with the political or military situation in Liberia at the time of the alleged shipment.

Returning to the January 1999 invasion of Freetown, Munyard highlighted interview notes stating that Mongor hadn’t participated in the invasion of Freetown. Mongor confirmed this, saying that Bockarie had sent him to invade Joru and Zimmi in southeastern Sierra Leone, and only later gave him an order to move near Freetown together with reinforcements from Liberia to join a gathering invasion force. Munyard suggested that it was odd of Mongor not to have volunteered this account in his early interview with investigators when asked if he had been involved in the invasion of Freetown.

Munyard again suggested that the invasion of Freetown had not been Taylor’s plan, but rather that of AFRC commanders Saj Musa and Gullit, the latter having succeeded Musa upon his death just before the invasion. Mongor responded that Gullit’s AFRC troops were the first into Freetown, but repeated his account of Taylor’s involvement. Munyard again confronted him with his early statement to prosecutors that Mongor hadn’t known anything about Taylor’s involvement. Mongor said that hadn’t been the truth, and couldn’t explain why he had said it.

Munyard then read from February 2007 interview notes, which stated that Mongor said that the invasion of Freetown “was largely an AFRC project”. Mongor confirmed saying this and explained that it was the AFRC that moved into Freetown, but that Taylor and Bockarie had planned it. He was adamant that the AFRC never would have made it into the city without coordinated RUF attacks elsewhere in the country. These attacks, Mongor said, were vital to the invasion’s success because they prevented ECOMOG forces from concentrating on Freetown and repelling the invasion. Munyard read from notes of a previous statement to investigators that reflected Mongor saying that Saj Musa (of the AFRC) had been hard to work with because Musa felt he should take orders from no one. Mongor agreed with this, but said that he and the other AFRC men had agreed with Taylor’s plan for the invasion, and in any case Musa had died in an explosion prior to the invasion. Nevertheless, he added, they had moved prematurely to invade the city without waiting for the full invasion force, including himself.

Munyard again suggested that Mongor had been pressed by the Prosecution to change his story about Taylor’s involvement in the Freetown invasion by the time he gave the full story in November 2007. Mongor admitted to feeling pressed, but said he hadn’t been concerned about prosecution. Munyard cited the notes, which stated that prosecutor Alain Werner had told Mongor that the prosecution phase of the RUF trial (against Issa Sesay, Morris Kallon and Augustine Gbao) had just concluded, and that prosecutors were now seeking information for the Taylor case; further, Mongor confirmed Werner saying that the Prosecution expected a top-level RUF commander to know more than he had already told them. Mongor said “maybe they wanted me to add” to his account. Munyard suggested that Mongor had added to it “by making up a pack of lies about Taylor’s involvement in the attack on Freetown in January 1999 in contradiction of what you’d told them before.” Mongor then denied being pressed at the November 2007 interview and said he hadn’t lied.

Prosecution attempt to rehabilitate Mongor’s credibility

Following the lunch break, Munyard said that the Defense had no further questions for the witness. Prosecutor Nick Koumjian then conducted a brief re-examination of Mongor.

Koumjian began by asking about Mongor’s prior statements regarding planning for the invasion of the January 1999 invasion of Freetown, and clearly sought to undermine the Defense’s contention that Mongor’s statements on the matter had changed greatly over time. Mongor confirmed notes read by Koumjian, which indicated that in December 2006 – early in his cooperation with the Prosecution – Mongor had indeed told investigators of Taylor’s involvement in the operation allegedly culminating in the Freetown invasion. Further, from the same February 2007 interview in which the Defense underscored Mongor’s statement that the Freetown invasion had been “largely an AFRC project”, Koumjian noted that Mongor had also told investigators of Taylor’s decision to attack Kono in late 1998, and that at a November 1998 meeting, Bockarie had discussed plans to attack Kono, Joru, Makeni and Freetown. Mongor confirmed this account and said he hadn’t felt pressed in making it.

Koumjian then asked about a series of unrelated matters:

  • He asked about Mongor’s earlier testimony regarding the visit of a Liberian delegation in 2000, and why he had warned Joe Tuah about a group plotting against Taylor in Sierra Leone. Mongor replied that he had known Tuah from his days in the NPFL, where Tuah had been artillery commander, and said that he’d told of the plot, “because the RUF and NPFL were brothers”.
  • Koumjian asked when Mongor had received an order to participate in the January 1999 Freetown invasion, and Mongor said it was an order that came from Bockarie before the invasion of January 6.
  • In response to a question about his participation in the RUF and the commission of atrocities, and whether he has ever discussed this with fellow churchgoers and neighbors, Mongor stated that he did give a testimony in church. The Defense objected that this line of questioning did not arise from matters of the cross-examination, and thus was inappropriate for re-examination. Presiding Judge Doherty agreed.
  • The prosecutor then moved on to ask about Mongor’s previous testimony regarding his wounding and detention by NPFL special forces following a 1992 battle between the RUF and NPFL. Mongor stated that he had been released after three weeks because Charles Taylor had ordered it.
  • Asked about the RUF disciplinary system, Mongor confirmed that there was no discipline for killing civilians, but that there was discipline for stealing diamonds, and recounted the beating to death of one accused.
  • With regard to Mongor’s earlier testimony about a massacre in which civilians were killed for coming from or fleeing to an area under enemy control, he confirmed that this was a pattern in the RUF. Asked to compare NPFL practices with this pattern, Mongor stated that it used to happen in the NPFL even before the RUF took up the practice.
  • Finally, Koumjian asked what Sam Bockarie (“Mosquito”) used to call Mongor. Mongor said Bockarie used to call him “Big Brother” because he was older and had trained Bockarie, Issa Sesay and others – the vanguards.

The Prosecution had no further questions.

Arguments over admissibility of a prosecution document

With Mongor still on the stand, the prosecution moved to admit documents into evidence that had been used during his testimony: two introduced by the prosecution, as well as one introduced by the Defense. Defense Counsel Terry Munyard objected to admission of one document, purported to be a report from Issa Sesay, signed by his adjutant, to Sam Bockarie. Munyard argued that the witness had been unfamiliar with the document. Prosecutor Nick Koumjian replied that the Defense had been using a double-standard when it came to admission of documents: one for the Defense and one for the Prosecution. Further, he said that the jurisprudence of the Special Court and other international tribunals made clear that with regard to the admissibility of a document, the standard is relevance. He argued that the judges can then use the witness’s familiarity (or lack thereof) with a document in later determining how much weight to give it in their deliberations. The judges pored over the references to the document in the trial transcript, discussing it with the parties, and conferred for a total of 10-20 minutes before Presiding Judge Teresa Doherty announced that the document would be admitted. She noted that the witness had recognized the type of document it was (a field report to a commander), and that it was the type of document that would have to be submitted.

Defense asked once again that the prosecution double-check that all interview notes relating to Mongor had been handed over. Koumjian said that this had already been done, and that there were no additional notes to disclose. Judge Doherty thanked Isaac Mongor for his testimony and released him.

A new witness takes the stand

Prosecutor Mohamed Bangura called the next witness to the stand. Although testifying publicly, witness TF1-516 remains under protective measures. A screen blocks view of the witness from the public gallery, and video images of the witness are distorted.

Once the protective measures were in place, the witness was sworn in on the Bible and began to answer questions in English. When asked his name and aliases, the witness wrote these on a piece of paper shown to all the parties and kept under seal. This procedure made it possible for the Court to stay in open session despite sensitive testimony concerning his identity.

The witness said that in March 1991, a Liberian RUF man named Rambo had abducted him and two relatives from Kailahun to carry food supplies from a store, and that this had taken two weeks to complete. He said they then escaped back to their village near the Sierra Leone-Liberia border and spent a month there before being captured by Junior Dolo and others, all RUF members who were also Liberians. He said Dolo sent them and a third relative to an RUF training camp in Kailahun. Gradually they were joined by new “recruits” from around eastern Sierra Leone, until there were around 5,000 of them.

At this point the Court adjourned. The proceedings will resume at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.