September 30, 2008
Court is in open session at 9.30 a.m. Presiding Judge Teresa Doherty took appearances and then asked why the accused was not present. Defense Counsel Morris Anyah explained that, because Charles Taylor is of the Jewish faith and today is the Jewish Holiday Rosh Hosanna, he would like to observe this holiday. Charles Taylor requested Court proceedings to continue. After having conferred the judges granted this request.
Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian continued his examination of 47th prosecution witness TF1-060 Abdul Conteh in chief for about 10 minutes upon which Defense Counsel Morris Anyah began his cross-examination.
Clarifications in examination in chief
Yesterday the witness stated that when the RUF was in control in Tongo Field for nine months they did not have complete control. Conteh explained that Tongo Field became a no mans land, both the RUF rebels and the SLA soldiers came there but had no base there. Civilians were not there during that period in 1997, it was too dangerous, they had fled to Kenema or other chiefdoms.
Koumjian referred to the event of the 15 people who had died in Bumpeh by the hands of junta soldiers and the witness declared he did report this in writing to the Secretary of State Sekou Kunnateh, who told the witness he would inform Mosquito. The witness brought out that he reported other incidents to Kunnateh, who always said he would inform Mosquito.
When asked what life was like in 1997 between August 11 and November 10 the witness commented it was not suitable. He explained that the Committee was set up, not because they agreed with the junta government and did not actively take part in that government, but it was an attempt to protect their brothers and sisters who had fled to the bush.
The Prosecution had no further questions
Defense Counsel Morris Anyah commenced his cross-examination of the witness and took Abdul Conteh through several points of his statements.
Notes of Abdul Conteh made during the junta period
Anyah asked Conteh about the document that consisted of eight reports he had made during the junta period in 1997 and preserved it ever since. This report the witness handed over to the Prosecution last Thursday and it was disclosed to the Defense last Friday. Anyah established that Conteh did not mention this document before, neither during any of his interviews with the OTP in 2003, 2004 and 2005, nor mentioned it while giving testimony during the RUF trial. Conteh brought out that he kept this 13 page document hidden in a toilet in a house he rented in Kenema. He would make notes in writing, and let the principal of the Lower Bambara School, Bockarie Alpha aka BA Man, type them out, one copy for the Paramount Chief of Lower Bambara of that time, Farma IV, one copy for himself.
Concerning Conteh’s report dated August 24, 1997 and dealing with August 11, 1997, Anyah brought out that the typed report said “no killing” and “no burning of houses” and that this word “no” is twice changed in handwriting “only few”. Anyah established that the report dealt with property damage: looting and burning of houses and dealt with civilians being killed by stray bullets and not intentional assassinations.
Anyah established that all reports are numbered, from 1-4 and 8. The witness confirmed that the reports numbered 5, 6 and 7 went missing, which Anyah considered strange as all reports were kept together.
Referring to an incident mentioned in the notes, about a women who complained to Sam Bockarie that one of his men had stolen her radio and was shot in his leg for it, Anyah tried to establish that Sam Bockarie did punish misbehaviour of his men towards civilians. Conteh agreed to this, but emphasised that this only happened during the first week when the junta forces took over Tongo Field.
Anyah showed the witness from one of this statements that Conteh did not know what happened to the diamonds, however Conteh stood by his evidence given yesterday in Court that twice he saw diamonds in the office of Sekou Kunnateh.
Anyah questioned the witness about his testimony in Court yesterday concerning the conversation Conteh had with Captain Eagle who told Conteh about the involvement of Charles Taylor in supporting the RUF. Conteh agreed that he did not speak about this with the Prosecution in previous meetings with them, nor in the RUF trial, but did not bring it up until September 2008. According to Anyah the witness had ample opportunity to share this information with the Prosecution, but he didn’t. The witness did refer to the three times helicopters visited Tongo Field, and were told that they contained visitors from Liberia. To this Anyah confronted Conteh with another of his statements where he said that he was told the visitors who came with the helicopters were VIP’s but did not state they were visitors from Liberia.
Anyah took the witness to other interview notes where Conteh stated he had no information about the chain of command or communications. If this is so, it is possible that Sam Bockarie did give out punishment to his men, but the witness would simply not know about it. Conteh agreed that this could be possible.
Anyah established that during the time of the government of Valentine Strasser, Strassers men also were involved in looting property, illicit diamond mining and even destroyed the electricity provisions provided in the area by the NDMC, the National Diamond Mining Company.
Conteh agreed that he is a member of a Poro Society, but did not agree to being a Kamajor.
Anyah established that the brother of the witness was killed by the Kamajors and that his sister was killed by the Junta forces and concluded that both parties went after people that allegedly connived with the other party, the enemy and that both committed atrocities. Conteh agreed both behaved badly.
Anyah put before Conteh that Sekou Kunnateh would always seek the permission of the Lower Bambara Caretaker Committee before they would search for Kamajors in a particular part of the chiefdom. Conteh agreed, but added that this was not done respectfully and they were just looking for a licence to kill everybody they wanted.
The Defense had no further questions.
Prosecutor Koumjian referred to the incident of a woman who had her radio stolen by one of Sam Bockarie’s men and who was shot in the leg for it. Conteh confirmed and added that Mosquito had said that looting was allowed for four days, but not longer.
Referring to the 8th report in the notes made during the Junta period, the witness confirmed that he mentioned a list of atrocities committed by the Junta, but added it was not a complete list of what the junta did during their time in Tongo Field and the atrocities committed by them exceeded the atrocities committed by the NPRC government.
The Prosecution had no more questions. The Defense marked for identification the partly typed and partly handwritten notes of Abdul Conteh during the junta period as MFI-1 and subsequently tendered this document as evidence as exhibit D-63.
The judges have no further questions. Presiding Judge Doherty thanked the witness for giving his testimony, wished him a safe journey home and dismissed the witness.
Subsequently Court is adjourned at 11.30 a.m. for the mid-morning break.