Defense Attacks the Credibility of Prosecution Witness Isaac Mongor

The Hague

April 1, 2008

Defense Counsel Terry Munyard today resumed his cross-examination of prosecution witness Isaac Mongor and it continued throughout the day. In attacking Mongor’s credibility, Munyard said there were inconsistencies between Mongor’s story and what Munyard said really happened during the conflict in Liberia, as well as inconsistencies between Mongor’s testimony and his prior statements to the Prosecution. The cross-examination also raised questions about some practices in the Office of the Prosecution (OTP) in its dealings with Mongor.

Questioning Mongor’s involvement with the NPFL

The Defense spent considerable time focusing on the witness’s account of fighting with Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) in Liberia in 1990. The questions focused on several areas, including: the credibility of Mongor’s claim to have been captured by the NPFL; where the NPFL conducted its battles; where Mongor had been and what he had done while with the NPFL; and how Mongor came to meet Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh and train RUF forces to fight in Sierra Leone.

Munyard questioned Mongor about where and when specifically Mongor claimed to have been abducted by the NPFL. After many questions and the aid of a map, Mongor stated he had been abducted in early December 1989 in a village in Nimba County whose name he didn’t know, but which, he said, lies between Gborplay and Loguatuo, near the border with Ivory Coast.

Through a series of questions, Munyard elicited a timeline from Mongor about his movements in Liberia after his abduction. Mongor said after his abduction, he was immediately sent to Gborplay, still in December 1989, for almost two months of military training. From Gborplay, he said he had been sent to fight the Armed Forces of Liberia in Ganta in late January 1990, and that Ganta had taken just under a week to fall. From there, Mongor said he and other NPFL soldiers advanced on the town of Gbarnga, where they fought for one night before the forces of Prince Johnson (of the Independent NPFL faction) retreated. After taking Gbarnga in January-February 1990, Mongor testified that he had been sent to fight in Kakata and Bong Mines in February 1990 – an operation lasting two weeks – before he returned to NPFL headquarters in Gbarnga. From Gbarnga, Mongor testified that he worked as part of Charles Taylor’s Executive Mansion Guard, manning an anti-aircraft gun mounted in a vehicle when Taylor visited the front lines, including near the outskirts of Monrovia and Bong Mines. Then he said that in March 1990, Taylor sent him to join Foday Sankoh and train RUF fighters at Camp NAama in Liberia. At first, he said there were few recruits, so he traveled between Camp Naama and Gbarnga, where he continued his duties as a member of Taylor’s Executive Mansion Guard. But, Mongor testified, by the end of March 1990 there were many RUF recruits, and from that point he was permanently stationed at Camp NaAma until he moved with the RUF to invade Sierra Leone in March 1991.

Munyard expressed disbelief that Mongor had done so much in just a few months between early December 1989 and the end of March 1990, and that the NPFL had advanced from the border with Ivory Coast all the way to the capital in just two-to-three months. Additionally, he asserted that Mongor was lying, because his account did not match with what he said were the true facts. Namely, Munyard put to the witness that he was lying about the following:

  • his abduction by the NPFL, because Mongor testified he had been taken captive by the NPFL between Gborplay and Loguatuo in December 1989, while Munyard asserted that the NPFL did not control that area until several months after they first invaded Liberia from Ivory Coast in December 1989;
  • his training in Gborplay in December 1989 because the NPFL training base there did not open until May 1990; because Mongor’s account of living in houses at the training base in Gborplay did not match what Munyard said to be the case: that the NPFL recruits lived in the surrounding forest during their training; because the name Mongor gave for his training commander did not match the names of the persons whom Munyard said were really the commanders; and because Mongor said he had been trained for less than two months, while Munyard asserted that all training at Gborplay had lasted four months;
  • the fall of Ganta, because Mongor said it had been in January 1990 and taken less than a week, while Munyard claimed fighting there lasted about a month, and that Ganta did not fall until mid-1990;
  • the fall of Gbarnga, because Mongor claimed there had been fighting and casualties there, which Munyard said had not been the case. Rather, Munyard asserted, Prince Johnson’s troops had abandoned the town without a fight. Additionally Munyard suggested that Mongor was lying about fighting at Gbarnga because the NPFL had not taken it until January or February 1991, about one year after Mongor said he fought there;
  • the course of the war, because Munyard claimed that in contradiction of Mongor’s account, the NPFL did not advance from Ganta to Gbarnga, but rather from Ganta south to Tapeta and then to Buchanan. Mongor replied that there were different groups in the NPFL and they didn’t all move together.
  • serving in Taylor’s Executive Mansion Guard, because Munyard claimed that Mongor’s description of the guard commander was not accurate, and that the guard commander had not taken that position until 1993, long after Mongor had left Liberia for Sierra Leone. Further, Munyard claimed that Mongor could not have operated an anti-aircraft gun at the time because the NPFL did not yet have any. Munyard also claimed that Mongor’s description of Taylor’s vehicle, a Nissan Patrol, was inaccurate because Taylor was using a bulletproof Mercedes Benz jeep at the time. Mongor insisted his account was accurate.

Munyard also claimed that Mongor was lying about being selected by Taylor to train the RUF. Mongor said he had been selected because after Taylor told the BBC that Sierra Leone would taste the bitterness of war – following ECOMOG jet attacks on the NPFL from bases in Sierra Leone – Taylor had been careful not to allow his special forces to engage in the RUF’s training, instead seeking to disguise his support for the RUF. Munyard suggested that special forces, those NPFL men who had trained in Burkina Faso and Libya, indeed had been involved in the RUF training, but Mongor denied this. Munyard also put to Mongor that Taylor had not given his statement to the BBC until November 1990, long after Mongor said he had left Gbarnga and was already training RUF recruits at Camp Naama, so that the BBC interview could not have been a reason for Taylor to select Mongor for the training. Mongor disputed that the BBC interview had been in November 1990.

Munyard asserted that Mongor had never guarded Taylor in the NPFL, but had been recruited to the RUF directly by Foday Sankoh, and joined because he believed in the RUF’s objective to overthrow one-party governance in Sierra Leone.

Inconsistent prior statements

Munyard questioned Mongor about discrepancies between his testimony and the notes that prosecutors and investigators from the Special Court took over the course of 24 separate interviews with him. In every case, Mongor stuck to the account of his testimony, saying that investigators may have misunderstood him, or arguing that the notes did not contradict his testimony. Specific examples included:

  • In one statement, investigators noted that Mongor claimed Taylor and Prince Johnson had lived at the training base at Gborplay at the same time. Mongor said this was not true – that he had never seen them together there.
  • One set of interview notes recorded that Mongor said he joined the Liberian army in 1983, but Mongor said this was wrong, and stuck to his testimony that he had joined in 1985.
  • Interview notes said that Mongor “joined” or “became associated with” the NPFL, while in his first interview and in his testimony before the Court, Mongor said he had been “captured”. While Munyard said there was a large discrepancy between these terms, Mongor said that they were not inconsistent: that he had first been captured, but then had been a part of the NPFL and identified as such.
  • Interview notes stated that Mongor first met Foday Sankoh when he was introduced by his friend, and Sankoh’s tribesman, John Kargbo, but Mongor had said at other times that he had earlier met Sankoh in Gbarnga. Mongor explained that he had seen Sankoh earlier, when he knew him by the name Pa Morlai, but that he had never really talked to him until the introduction by John Kargbo.
  • Interview notes reflected that Mongor had said that Foday Sankoh recruited him to train the RUF, but Mongor insisted that this was incorrect, and that Taylor had sent him on the training mission to Camp Naama. Munyard admitted that in later interviews, Mongor did say that Taylor sent him to train the RUF, but asserted he had only done this when it became clearer to Mongor that the Prosecution wanted more information on a relationship with Charles Taylor.

Questions about practices in the OTP

The Defense raised three issues about practices in the OTP with regard to this witness that could serve to harm the witness’s credibility in the eyes of the judges.

Munyard indicated that notes from Mongor’s first interview with the Prosecution stated that the investigator “went over” Taylor’s indictment with the witness. Munyard asked Mongor whether this happened before he was asked any questions, and Mongor testified that the investigator had explained the charges against Taylor before asking him any questions. Additionally, Mongor confirmed that investigators told him they knew he had been with Taylor prior to asking him any questions. Mongor agreed with Munyard’s suggestion that he knew going into his first interview that the Prosecution was looking for information on him and Charles Taylor.

Munyard asked whether in any of his 24 interviews, the prosecution staff had ever shown Mongor a statement from another witness, and Mongor said they hadn’t. Later in the day, Munyard produced prosecution interview notes stating that another witness’s statement had been “reviewed” with Mongor “for corroboration”. When this came up, the Court went into a private session for 20 minutes at the request of Prosecutor Nick Koumjian, who said there was a problem regarding a witness protection issue. Back in open session, Munyard pressed the issue again. Mongor said no other person’s witness statement had been read to him by the investigator. Munyard noted that the interview in question had lasted three hours, but produced only three pages of notes, and suggested this meant that a lengthy document had been read to Mongor. Mongor said he didn’t recall any such document being read to him.

Through a series of questions, Munyard established that prosecution payments to Mongor for transportation, food and lost wages exceeded his actual expenses. For example, Mongor received 20,000 Leones (about six US dollars) following one interview for transportation and food, but his taxi fare had been only 900 Leones, and he hadn’t been not at the Court during a meal time. For several interviews on Sundays, Mongor received 50,000 Leones for transportation, food, and lost income, even though on Sundays Mongor said he would not have been working, so would have lost any income. Mongor testified yesterday and today that his business did not perform well, and Munyard suggested that he was testifying for the money after realizing that he could profit from the interviews. Mongor denied this.

Events in Sierra Leone

Near the end of the Court session, Munyard began questioning Mongor about events in Sierra Leone following the RUF’s March 1991 invasion from Liberia. Mongor testified that in 1993, Sierra Leonean government forces pressed the RUF all the way to the Liberian border, and that at the time, anti-Taylor ULIMO forces occupied Lofa County on the other side of the border. He said that ULIMO forces were enemies to the RUF.

Munyard suggested that by 1993 the NPFL were also considered enemies of the RUF. Mongor agreed that there had been problems between the NPFL and RUF in 1992, but said it was not a serious problem, although an order had come for the NPFL to withdraw. Munyard asked Mongor if he had maintained communications with anyone in the NPFL during this period. Mongor said that once he had reported to Charles Taylor himself on activities and needs at the front by radio in mid-to-late 1992 when Mongor had been an acting battlegroup commander.

The cross-examination of Isaac Mongor will continue tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.