May 19, 2008
Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths began his cross-examination of Moses Blah today. Blah served as Adjutant General of the NPFL, Inspector General of the NPFL, Liberia’s ambassador to Libya, and Vice President under Charles Taylor, as well as President of Liberia upon Taylor’s resignation in 2003. The Defense emphasized Blah’s close relationship with Taylor and access to insider information while simultaneously eliciting testimony that Blah had no direct knowledge of Taylor’s participation in any criminal acts or connections with the AFRC and RUF.
Blah’s meetings with the Prosecution and production of documents
The Defense began with a series of questions regarding Blah’s meetings with and payments from the Prosecution in 2006 and 2007. Blah stated that he received payments of approximately 5,000 USD for medical expenses and travel to his country to obtain relevant documents. When Griffiths pressed Blah about whether he would produce the documents he retrieved that were not currently before the Special Court, Blah argued that they were his personal documents and he would not produce them without a subpoena, noting that the documents did not contain anything Blah would not say directly in court. Blah also stated that he received no immunity in exchange for his testimony.
Blah’s involvement with the NPFL
Griffiths questioned Blah about his involvement with the NPFL. Blah first testified about the 1985 coup d’etat led by Blah’s cousin, Thomas Quiwonkpa, against former President of Liberia Samuel Doe. Following the unsuccessful coup attempt, the government retaliated against the Gios and the Manos. Blah’s wife was murdered and Blah fled to Ivory Coast. Blah later spent time in Libya at a guerilla camp, where, according to Blah, “Junior Commanders” pledged their loyalty to Taylor and obeyed Taylor’s orders. Blah stated, “Taylor was the sole Commander-in-Chief of this revolution.”
Blah discussed the Junior Commanders’ movements from Libya to Liberia, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast. Griffiths sought to emphasize the artificial nature of country lines in Africa and that NPFL invasions caused a major exodus of Liberians into Guinea. Griffiths further emphasized that the war began to take on a distinctly ethnic nature among Mandingos, Gios, Manos, and Krahns under Doe’s brutal regime. According to Blah, the NPFL came to control a large portion of Liberia, except Monrovia, and ECOWAS attempted to intervene. The first training camp for the NPFL was set up in Tiaplay, Liberia, where the Special Forces (i.e., those trained in Libya) recruited and trained the Junior Commanders.
According to Blah, Prince Johnson established the Independent NPFL, and captured and murdered Doe on September 10, 1990. Johnson later allied his Independent NPFL with ECOMOG peacekeepers and drove the NPFL out of Monrovia. In October 1991, the Independent NPFL surrendered to ECOMOG, and in September 1992, the Independent NPFL dissolved. Blah also discussed the emergence of ULIMO in June 1991, which was composed of former Doe supporters under the control of Roosevelt Johnson in Sierra Leone. ULIMO engaged in fierce battles with the NPFL and controlled large portions of the western region bordering Sierra Leone.
NPFL lack of control over the region
The Defense attempted to elicit testimony that would weaken the possibility that Taylor, through his leadership of the NPFL, had control over the region. Griffiths asked a series of questions about discipline within the NPFL, which revealed that an increase in forces from 180 to 70,000 led to a loss or coordination and organization among troops; NPFL soldiers were not paid; many NPFL soldiers were illiterate and poor; and NPFL troops received little logistical support. In addition, the NPFL struggled to arm and feed the group during the period from 1992 until the 1997 elections. Griffiths emphasized that ULIMO controlled the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia from 1992 until the 1997 elections. At this time, the NPFL did not have access to the area. In addition, ECOMOG forces imposed a blockade on most of the territory controlled by the NPFL. A UN arms embargo created further hurdles for the NPFL in its acquisition of arms and ammunition.
In 1994, both ECOMOG and UNMIL forces had a widespread presence in Liberia and instituted checkpoints and roadblocks on all major routes to facilitate disarmament. Griffiths questioned Blah about whether any arms could pass through these checkpoints, but Blah could not definitively say that it was impossible for the NPFL to transport large quantities of arms because ECOMOG would take money in exchange for favors. When questioned about the disarmament process, which ended in 1996, Blah stated that the leaders of the various factions were playing “games” and that some would stash weapons. Blah confirmed that former ULIMO fighters made money by selling their arms across the border. Blah agreed that there was a “fairly brisk cross-borer trade” in which “everybody was out to make a fast buck.”
Taylor’s prosecution of NPFL illegal acts
Griffiths spent a large part of the day questioning Blah regarding a tribunal established by Taylor to try crimes committed by the NPFL. Griffiths asked Blah about specific cases before the tribunal, including a case involving a general who was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl. Blah agreed that the tribunal was a “clear effort . . . to establish the NPFL on a legal, professional footing.” Griffiths emphasized that the tribunal sought to impose the rule of law to “mete out punishment according to the law”. After Griffiths stated that it was “rubbish” that the NPFL was lawless, Blah pointedly noted that the NPFL faced difficulties as time went on and the tribunals dissolved.
Testimony regarding cannibalism
Griffiths questioned Blah regarding recent testimony before the Court about Taylor’s cannibalism and encouragement of cannibalism. On March 14, Zigzag Marzah testified that Taylor ordered cannibalism. RUF commander Karmoh Kanneh and Blah himself subsequently testified regarding cannibalism within Taylor’s forces. Griffiths noted that Blah did not mention cannibalism during any of his testimony to the Prosecution in 2006 and 2007, implying that the Prosecution introduced this “hot topic” to both Kanneh and Blah following Marzah’s testimony. Griffiths then read a signed statement by Blah in which he said that he considered any allegations that Taylor drank the blood of opponents, encouraged ritual sacrifice, or engaged in cannibalism as “totally false.” Blah argued that he could not say definitively one way or the other whether Taylor engaged in or ordered these practices but noted that Taylor had never done so in his presence.
Blah’s knowledge and access to information
The Defense attempted throughout the day to underscore Blah’s prominence in the Taylor administration while noting that Blah had no direct knowledge of any wrongdoing by Taylor. Blah served as Adjutant General for the NPFL, Inspector General of the NPFL, Liberia’s ambassador to Libya, and Vice President under Taylor. In addition, Blah received information from Taylor’s bodyguards because of their shared ethnic background.
Griffiths emphasized that despite Blah’s position and access to information he had no direct knowledge of arms supplied by Taylor to the AFRC or RUF. Blah stated emphatically that although he did not know about arms shipments – because such knowledge was not within his job duties – he knew that Liberians were fighting in Sierra Leone. Griffiths also elicited that Blah had no direct knowledge of monetary support from Taylor to the AFRC or RUF, diamond consignments to Taylor or his personnel, radio communications between Taylor and the AFRC or RUF, or instructions by Taylor to either Foday Sankoh or any other senior commander in the RUF. In addition, Blah stated that he had never heard of military operations called “Spare No Soul” or “No Living Thing.”
The Defense’s cross-examination of Moses Blah will continue tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.