Defense Attacks Isaac Mongor’s Credibility for a Third Day; Have Prosecution Investigators Damaged Mongor’s Credibility?

The Hague

April 2, 2008

The cross-examination of prosecution witness Isaac Mongor went into its third day today, as Defense Counsel Terry Munyard continued to attack Mongor’s credibility. Nearly the entire day was taken up with painstaking review of inconsistencies between his testimony and his prior statements to the Prosecution. At times Mongor reacted angrily to Munyard’s questioning, and had to be warned twice by the judges to just answer the questions and not argue with the Defense Counsel. For the second day, the cross-examination raised questions about the professionalism of investigators in the Special Court’s OTP.

Inconsistent accounts

Mongor testified that he had spoken directly with Charles Taylor once over the radio while serving as acting battlegroup commander for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in 1992. Munyard presented the witness with a statement he gave to the Prosecution in September 2006, in which he had said that he had never communicated directly with Taylor while in the field. Mongor replied that perhaps there had been a language barrier in that interview, but Munyard countered that the notes said an interpreter had been present, and in any case, most of Mongor’s 24 interviews with the prosecution had been conducted without an interpreter.

When asked, Mongor said he had corrected this statement when the prosecution investigator read his notes from the interview back to him, and that the investigator had noted the correction. Munyard said that if the notes were handwritten, that meant that a mistake had been made, then corrected, then made again when the notes were typed.

Following the mid-morning break, Lead Prosecutor Brenda Hollis announced to the Court that the Prosecution had failed to disclose to the Defense all handwritten interview notes pertaining to Isaac Mongor. She said the handwritten notes had just been handed to the Defense. She also said that the failure was inexcusable and apologized to the Court and to the Defense.

Later in the afternoon, Munyard used these handwritten notes to show Mongor that the Prosecution had not made any correction to the account about Mongor’s alleged conversation with Taylor, as Mongor had claimed, although other corrections were visible in the notes and reflected in the typed version.

Munyard noted that in his 11th interview, in December 2006, Mongor did tell the Prosecution that he spoke with Taylor in 1992, and Munyard asserted that by repeatedly asking the question, the Prosecution had been pressing Mongor to say this. Mongor said he hadn’t felt pressed.

Continuing, Munyard noted that the December 2006 interview notes stated that Mongor had spoken with Taylor “a couple of times” in 1992 and not just once, as he had testified. Again, Mongor insisted that he had corrected the investigator when this was read back to him, but that the investigator again had made a mistake. Munyard asked how the investigator had taken the notes, and Mongor said they had been written in pen. However, written in the notes themselves was an indication that they had been typed directly into a laptop computer.

On another issue, Munyard asked Mongor how many times he had gone to Camp Zogoda while the RUF was based there. Mongor said he had gone twice in 1996: once when RUF leader Foday Sankoh was there, before the Abidjan peace accord, and once when Sankoh was not there, after he had left to Abidjan to sign the accord. When Munyard asked if he had ever gone there in 1995, Mongor said he had just passed through. Yet on further questioning, Mongor said that on the 1995 visit, he had stayed two days and participated in a commanders’ meeting at which Sankoh had promoted him to Major and given him the RUF command for Sierra Leone’s Northern Area. Munyard was incredulous that he could have forgotten this visit when earlier testifying he had only been there twice. As Mongor stated many times throughout the day when asked about inconsistencies, he told the Defense that he was a human being, liable to forget things and make mistakes.

Munyard asked Mongor about his second visit to Camp Zogoda, and his previous testimony that he had been with Sankoh and a radio operator named Zedman when Sankoh spoke with Charles Taylor to tell him about the military situation, shortages of supplies, and a planned operation to prevent the 1996 elections in Sierra Leone. Mongor confirmed the account, saying that Sankoh told Taylor about “Operation Stop Election”, in which civilians were to be “made fearful” and any captured civilians were to have their hands amputated. Mongor testified earlier that Taylor’s response had been that the plan was “not bad”, and confirmed that today.

Munyard asked if that was the only time Mongor had ever heard Sankoh and Taylor talking on the radio. Mongor said he wasn’t sure, but then said he had heard other conversations. Asked about the inconsistency, he said that he had been with Sankoh only one time when Sankoh was talking with Taylor, but had listened to radio conversations between the two over his field radio, from a distance.

Munyard showed Mongor notes from an interview with prosecution investigators from September 2006, in which the year of the alleged radio conversation was recorded as 1995. Mongor insisted he had corrected that to 1996 when the notes were read to him, and that the investigator had written the correction. Munyard displayed the handwritten notes to the Court, on which there was no notation of a correction to the year.

Munyard asked whether such a conversation about the brutal plan to amputate hands as part of “Operation Stop Election” was something that would stick out in Mongor’s memory, and Mongor agreed that it would. Munyard confronted him with notes from the September 2006 interview with a prosecution investigator, in which there was no mention of “Operation Stop Election”. Mongor insisted he had mentioned it in that interview, he had corrected the investigator’s omission when the notes were read back to him, and that the investigator had written the correction, then read that correction back to him. Munyard then pointed out that there was no mention of the operation in either the typed or handwritten notes. Mongor said that the investigator is also a human being and may have lost some documents.

Munyard later asked Mongor about an interview with prosecutor Nick Koumjian in February 2008, in Holland, shortly before his testimony. Mongor said he told Koumjian about the plan to conduct amputations as part of “Operation Stop Election”, but Munyard then displayed the notes, which did not reflect this. Munyard suggested to Mongor that his story had “grown and grown” over time: not mentioning “Operation Stop Election” in September 2006, then not mentioning amputations in February 2008, but then in March 2008 testifying about Sankoh telling Taylor of amputations as part of “Operation Stop Election”.

Have prosecution investigators harmed the Prosecution?

Munyard touched on two practices used by prosecution investigators that may damage Mongor’s credibility as a witness in the eyes of the judges.

Late in the day, Munyard returned to a point that emerged yesterday, when he reviewed an investigator’s notes from an interview with Mongor in September 2006, which stated that the investigator had gone through Taylor’s indictment with Mongor prior to asking questions. The prosecution investigator’s reading to the witness of the charges against Taylor before asking questions may strengthen the Defense’s argument that this witness has conformed his story to what he thought the prosecution wanted to hear.

Munyard asked why Mongor had first mentioned the nickname of a radio operator named Foday K. Lansana when testifying before Court if he had never mentioned Lansana’s nickname in any of his interviews. Munyard suggested someone had told Mongor the nickname, but Mongor denied that. Munyard asked whether investigators ever read out names and nicknames to him, and Mongor said they had, in order to find out if he knew them. Earlier in the afternoon, Munyard had asked Mongor about a passage in a set of interview notes relating to an officer in the NPFL nick-named “Jungle”. He asked whether Mongor knew his real name, and Mongor replied, “Tamba”. Munyard later showed interview notes stating that Mongor hadn’t known Jungle’s real name. Further, he displayed additional notes from another date, suggesting that an investigator had read the name “Daniel Tamba, also known as ‘Jungle'” to Mongor; the investigator had thus potentially provided information to the witness rather than receiving information from the witness. Mongor said that he had known Jungle’s real name to be Tamba during the war, but that in an earlier interview the real name had momentarily escaped him. Even if that is true, the action of the prosecution investigator may make it more difficult for the judges to believe the prosecution witness.

Court adjourned until tomorrow 9.30 a.m.