August 21, 2008
The Defense opened the third Court session with the beginning of its cross-examination. Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths started by focusing on the Witness’ personal relationship with Charles Taylor. The Witness stated that he had never spoken to or been introduced to Charles Taylor. He testified that the only occasion that he had ever seen Charles Taylor was in Kakata and Gbarnga in 1991. In Kakata and Gbarnga, the Witness stated that Charles Taylor was not “at a distance”, rather that the Defendant was not far from him. Since 1991, he has only seen Charles Taylor on television or the internet. The Witness stated that he had never received orders from Charles Taylor. Charles Taylor dealt with the Witness’ more senior officers. The Witness stated that he never gave Charles Taylor diamonds. He gave diamonds to Sam Bockarie, who he understood gave diamonds to Charles Taylor. Also, he has never received weapons from Charles Taylor.
The Witness agreed with the Defense that he was a member of the RUF for more than a decade. When asked if he ever personally killed civilians, he replied no and stated that he had never “knowingly and deliberately” killed civilians. He also testified that he was never ordered to kill civilians. He said that he never raped anyone nor was he ever ordered to rape anyone. Further, he never burned the homes of any civilians and was not ever ordered to do so. Neither Sam Bockarie or Issa Sesay ordered him to kill anyone, rape anyone, or burn the homes of anyone. The Witness said that he had not ever heard of any RUF commander being ordered to commit such acts, including amputation. The Witness admitted to knowing of instances of RUF looting, although he had never personally looted homes. The Witness stated that the RUF was not concerned with such activities. He said that RUF combatants responsible for a bank robbery he described in his direct examination were subsequently beaten quite badly on the orders of senior commanders.
In the incident involving allegations of diamond theft against the Witness, a former Operational Commander made a complaint to Issa Sesay. Sesay then appointed a military police officer to investigate the complaint. The military police officer reported to Sesay and Sesay next appointed a tribunal, the People’s Court, to investigate and reach findings on the facts. Regarding the People’s Court, the Witness said that several units — MP, IDU, others — would be represented and the court would select a Chairman. The Court would then meet and agree on an outcome. The Witness stated that he did not have any legal representation during this procedure. According to the Witness, the same procedure was used when an allegation of rape was made against an RUF combatant. The range of punishments available for a guilty verdict on rape included severe beating or death in the case of deliberate rape.
The RUF ideology was that RUF combatants should respect law and order and seniority. Additionally, the civilians should also be respected. Foday Sankoh espoused this idea. The Witness agreed that because of a lack of discipline and lack of perfection some combatants did not abide by the policy of the RUF. The Witness agreed that it was not the policy of the RUF to engage in criminal activities but there were some soldiers who did not take orders.
The Witness stated that forcing civilians to work for the RUF was not a crime in his view, although he acknowledged that the civilians disagreed. He said that when he disarmed he did not consider himself to be a criminal, however he feared that others would perceive him as a criminal and that he might be arrested. He worried that he might be arrested because other senior officials had been arrested according to rumors at the time. The Witness stated that he did not join the RUF voluntarily. He said the treatment he received in Liberia and circumstances there forced him to join in order to save his life.
The Witness stated that he sometimes disagreed with Sam Bockarie but he did not become disillusioned with him. He said that the only thing Sam Bockarie did that was against RUF principles was to kill people based on accusations of connivance. He also was not happy when Sam Bockarie left to join Charles Taylor in Liberia. When the power was transferred to Issa Sesay and another RUF commander, the movement deteriorated. He agreed that Sam Bockarie’s move to Liberia was a serious blow to the RUF; the RUF was no longer of “one mind” after his departure.
The Witness confirmed his prior testimony that when the NPFL invaded Liberia in 1991, the Mandingo people were targeted. He was concerned about being mistaken for a Mandingo. He agreed that the Mandingo people were known as merchants and predominantly involved in trade. He explained the history with other opposition groups in the country. He stated that Mandingo people did not like Charles Taylor and that is why they were being killed. The Witness stated that he was appointed by Sam Bockarie to negotiate ULIMO officials in Lofa County for ammunition. He said that he is not Mandingo and does not speak Mandingo. When asked why Sam Bockarie asked the Witness to negotiate with ULIMO, he said that he was one of the few who were entrusted with financial matters.
In 1980, when the Witness was eleven years old, he moved to Liberia. He was sent to live with his elder brother in Liberia to learn a trade. He agreed that the prospects in Liberia were much better than in Sierra Leone at that time. He lived in Kakata, Monrovia and Bomi. Kakata was his main base and he was aware of Mike Lamin’s presence in Kakata. He remembered seeing Lamin initially in 1991 at his relative’s restaurant. He discovered eventually that Lamin was an NPFL fighter sometime after Kakata was captured. He recalled seeing Lamin riding in an NPFL vehicle, but he was not able to determine Lamin’s rank because he was in civilian clothing.
The witness agreed to the following timeline:
· The war in Sierra Leone begin in 1991. Foday Sankoh launched that war.
· In 1992, the then-president of Sierra Leone, Joseph Momoh, was ousted in a military coup. At the time, the Witness was in the Kailahoun district with RUF.
· In 1996, the Witness was in the Kono area beyond rebel lines. He was involved with mining and also the RUF Kono commander (but not a mining commander). At that time, he had no materials with which to mine. He said that he did not know the status of leader Valentine Strasser was ousted in a military coup by the Minister of Defense.
· In 1996, he understood that there were democratic elections and Ahmad Kabbah was elected. He did not have thoughts of leaving the RUF at that time, although he was aware of peace talks involving Foday Sankoh.
· In 1996, he was in the Kailahun district where many RUF soldiers were hiding.
· In 1997, when Sankoh was arrested, he was still in the Kailahun district. At this time Sam Bockarie became the caretaker for the RUF. Also, in 1997, Foday Sankoh sent a message for the RUF to join Johnny Paul Koroma, then leader of Sierra Leone, in Freetown.
· Nine months later in February 1998, ECOMOG stormed Freetown with a predominantly Nigerian force and the RUF was forced to leave town. Sankoh was later handed over to the Sierra Leonean government, which angered the RUF.
In Buedu, the Witness heard that Johnny Paul Koroma had been arrested and harassed by Issa Sesay. He also heard that Koroma’s wife was raped by an RUF commander, Mike Lamin. He stated that he heard from Sam Bockarie that Charles Taylor told Koroma and his wife to move to Liberia. The exact words were “Chief said he should release Koroma and his family so that they could go to Liberia.” He said that Charles Taylor was only person that he called “Chief.” Regarding the West Side Boys, the Witness said these were former SLA soldiers not affiliated with RUF. He did not recall hearing of any kidnapping incident between the West Side Boys and UN peacekeeping forces. The Witness, however, later contradicted earlier testimony and said that the RUF did not have Johnny Paul Koroma in custody and he could not say that a subsequent release occurred in August 1999.
The Witness stated that at the signing of the Lome Peace Agreement in 1999, he was in Kono. He also said that the year that ECOMOG pushed the Junta out of Freetown was the same year, i.e. 1998, he went to Monrovia with Sam Bockarie and stayed in ELWA Junction. The Defense pointed out that Sam Bockarie did not have access to that address in 1998. However, the Witness maintained his testimony.
Regarding the Guinean invasion, the Witness stated that the invasion lasted for two or three months. The Witness was wounded in the first month of conflict and taken home to Kono. He remained at home for some time. The Witness confirmed his testimony that from 1998 until 2000, he was a mining commander. He agreed that this was an important role for the RUF since it controlled one of the main sources of the RUF’s income. Other income streams included trading agricultural products across the Liberian and Guinean borders. He said that there was no trading agricultural products with ULIMO across either the Liberian border or the Guinean border.
He noted that in its infancy, the RUF was assisted by the NPFL. The Witness said he recognized the phrase “Top Final” and recalled that after this event caused the “wicked” members of the NPFL to be removed from Sierra Leone. He also recalled that ULIMO attacked the Liberian forces. He said that ULIMO was supported by Sierra Leone and Guinea and ultimately took control of Lofa Country. The RUF were isolated on the Sierra Leone side of the border and came to depend on ambushes of the Sierra Leonean army forces.
Witness TF1-367 is expected to continue his testimony on another date than tomorrow.