Former Child Soldier Begins Testimony

May 5, 2008

The following is not an actual transcript and is a summary of the proceedings.

Presiding Judge Teresa Doherty opened the proceedings today by noting that there was one uncompleted matter regarding the last witness (Alimamy Bobson Sesay), which was dealing with exhibits marked for identification during that witness’s questioning.  Prosecutor Shyamala Alagendra applied to admit a series of exhibits into evidence, and the Court reviewed them one by one, considering any objections made by defense counsel Morris Anyah.  These exhibits were admitted into evidence, for the most part without objection, and included news articles and maps marked by the witness.  The Defense also applied to have various exhibits into evidence, including BBC news articles, articles from the Sierra Leone news archives, maps, and materials relating to the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission, also largely without any objections by the Prosecution.

Prosecutor Mohammed Bangura then made an application to the Court concerning the next witness (the 24th Prosecution witness) TF1-143.  This witness was granted protective measures by Trial Chamber 1 previously in 2004, as that Trial Chamber ruled that he was entitled to testify by closed circuit television (not in open court), to have his image not shown and to use a pseudonym because he was a child witness.   Banguranoted that at present, the witness is above that age and is not entitled to testify by closed circuit television.  He thus applied to the Court to have the 2004 order rescinded with respect to the closed circuit television measure, but sought to have the witness be entitled to the rest of the measures (use of pseudonym and screen, as well as having his facial image distorted). 

In response, Defense Counsel Terry Munyard observed that the witness is 22 years old, and therefore supported the Prosecutions’s application to rescind the measure relating to testimony by closed-circuit television but had no comment to make on the use of other measures.

Judge Sebutinde: All these measures were on the grounds that he was overage.  Now he is overage.  Do you still think he needs to testify behind a screen and with facial distortion even though he is no longer a child?

Pros: The witness still has concerns about his security and safety consistent those he had before.

Def: Reads through the 2004 order and states that it appears that measures applied by that Trial Chamber applied only to child witness status.  This protection no longer applies, as the witness doesn’t fall within other categories (sexual victim or insider).

Pros: Our understanding is that all category 1 (victims of sexual assault, child witnesses, and insiders) were entitled to the use of a pseudonym and screen. 

After some deliberation, the Court noted the order of Trial Chamber 1 from July 5, 2004 granted use of a psudonym at all times, and the use of a screening device from the public.  The Court said it had been informed that the effect of the use of a screen would be to have image distortion.  Accordingly, it granted the Prosecution’s application. 

The curtains in the court room were ordered to come down so the public couldn’t see the witness but his testimony could be heard. 

The witness will testify in Krio and was sworn in on the Bible.  Because of concerns that the Prosecution’s first 5 questions could indicate who the witness is, the witness is given a blank sheet of paper to write his answers to those questions.  These 5 questions were: (1) what is your name? (2) any aliases/other names? (3) date of birth? (4) your present place of residence? (5) what work do you do presently? 

Court: The paper should be shown to counsel for the Prosecution and the then the Defense. [the paper is then shown to both]

The paper is marked as confidential and marked as a Prosecution exhibit.

Pros: Mr Witness, do you recall Sept. of 1998?

W: Yes sir.  Sept. 1998 I was with my mother and my family.  It was in the rainy season.

Pros: Where were you living at this time?

W: At Kabalahtown in Koinadugu district.

Pros: Who were members of family at that time?

W: My brother and sister.

Pros: How old were you at that time?

W: I was 12 years old. I was going to school.

Pros: What level of school?

W: I was in class 4.

Pros: How do you recall Sept. of 1998?

W: Well, during that time my mother and I were at home.  My mother was cooking and in the evening when we heard heavy firing.  My mother and my family ran to Konkoba, my mother’s village.  Other people were running to Konkoba as well.  When we arrived we spent the night, and the next day we heard they had pushed the rebels out and were coming towards Kayakoh.  Me and my family ran to my grandfather’s farm, 3 miles from the village.

Pros: You mentioned the rebles had been pushed from Kabalah to Kayakoh, what do you mean?

W: Nigerian and Guinean soldiers had pushed the rebels out of Kabalah so the rebels were running from them.  The Nigerians were called Oga Men.  At that time I didn’t know why they were called that.   

Pros: Where was your grandfather’s farm?

W: 3 miles from the village.

Pros: Anything happen when got there?

W: When we ran to the farm, we spent the night.  The next day we were there until the evening and went to the village to spend the night there (in Konkobah).  We were sleeping when we heard knocking on the door and were taken by the rebels at gunpoint to another house. 

Pros: Don’t have to say everything all at once, I will guide you so you can give answers in bits.  You said that evening there was a knock at the door.  Right?

W: Yes sir.

Pros: What happened then?

[technical difficulty]

W: The rebels took my family at gunpoint to another house.  At that time I didn’t know who they were.  I saw them himself.  I noticed that they all had guns.

Pros: Any particular outfit you remember?

W: It was in the morning I noticed that.  When we were taken to the house next door, we were all locked up in the house and other people were brought there as well.  We were all kept there until morning.  There were 4 rebels who came in the morning, including Kabila and Mohammed, and 2 said they had come to “mark” the boys and girls.  There were 150 total that had been captured, including 50 boys and girls. 

Pros: What do you mean by mark us?

W: When they said they were going to mark us, I didn’t know.  But then they carved AFRC on forehead of a boy and RUF on his chest using a razor blade.  The marking was done by Kabila and Mohammed.   All the boys and girls were marked this way.  The older ones were taken out.  The younger ones were 50 in number, and were both boys and girls.  They marked me as well, Kabila carved RUF on my chest.   

Pros: What were the ages of the boys and girls?

W: I couldn’t tell at that time.  All ages.

Pros: Able to observe the dress of the rebels?

W: Some were wearing combat trousers and black shirts, red bandanas.  Some were wearing combat uniforms.  They all had guns.  Most of them had heavy weapons, at that time I did not know the names of the weapons.

Pros: Apart from 4 who marked the young boys and girls, were there other rebels?

W: Yes.  There were over 200 in the town.

Pros: Anything happen then?

W: After marked, they took us to the house of the commander, “05,” “55” [?] and others who I can’t remember.

Pros: What happened to the remaining 100 who had been captured?

W: The rebels started beating up their elders, and said they couldn’t take them along because they wouldn’t be able to work.

[technical difficulties]

W: They left them there and then they said they would take the boys and girls along. They took us out of the village and went to a place where they rested.  The captured boys and girls were distributed among the commanders.  Me and another boy (Short Pepper) were taken by Kabila.  Kabila said he was going for food finding, they took us to a farm house.  There they met an old woman, and Kabila ordered me to rape the old woman.  I started crying, and said I couldn’t do this.  At that time I hadn’t even started sex and didn’t have a girlfriend.  Because of my refusal, Kabila told me to lay down in the sun and open my eyes until after they had eaten.  

W: We left the next day and passed through a village called Lenkenkoro (sp?), where they saw a man coming on a motorbike.  Kabila told him to stop but he refused, and Kabila shot at him and hit the man’s passenger. 

W: We moved and went through some villages where I have never been before.  We reached a village where we rested.  Kabila gave us forced training – how to dismantle a weapon and clean it up, and “couple it up.”  Kabila said now that they were captured and they were now in the group.  This was the first training I had been given.  Then Kabila took me into a house and asked me to do push ups for 5 hours.  When he left I would stop.  Kabila returned hit against a wall because of I wouldn’t rape the woman.  After I had been punished, Kabila deficated and told me to eat it.  If I didn’t do so, he would kill me and say I tried to run away.  I did so and after that he took me to a river side where I bathed. 

W: That evening the entire group left the town and went to Koinadugutown where there boss was.  It is in the same district. 

Pros: Can you tell the Court what happenend when you arrived in Koinadugu town?

W: The night we got there, all the boys and girls who had been captured and marked were taken to their boss, Sag Musa (sp?).  They said these are the boys who had been captured, and gave Sag Musa 2 boys.  We left the fighters there.  Those who had been captured and marked left the elder fighters there.

Court adjourns for the mid-morning break to resume at 12:00.