October 21, 2008
Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths had a document that was presented in Court yesterday submitted as evidence and it became defense exhibit D70.
Griffiths conveyed his concern to the Court that recently not all four judges were always present, is willing to accept there are reasons beyond everyone’s control but still feels that this case should have the highest priority. The judges accepted the point he was making and will take his observation to the President of the Court.
Testifying under Rule 92 bis and category B witnesses
Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian brought out that the next witness TF1-158 is an ex child soldier and a Category B witness according to the July 2004 decision of this Court. He is therefore entitled to the protective measures pseudonym, screen and closed video link. Koumjian applied to rescind the last protective measure, though he would like to have image distortion in line with protective measure of screen. Screen and image distortion are always applied together.
Defense Counsel Munyard objected for the Defense and asked the Court to look into the afore mentioned Court decision. He read from the decision and agreed that the witness has been a child witness but has now reached the age of 21. It is his understanding that the decision is to protect children, but this witness is not a child and has not been for some years. The Defense seeks clarification of the decision.
Koumjian said that the decision has been litigated and interpreted as the witness testified three years ago at age 18 and the issue was not raised then.
The judges decided that there are several legal issues involving this order and invited the parties to submit a motion and answer in writing. Court was adjourned for ten minutes so the Prosecution could speak to the witness. When Court reconvened Koumjian had spoken with the witness and with Munyard who agreed that the protective measure of pseudonym could stay in place. The Defense will submit a motion to clarify the position of these child witnesses falling into category B witnesses.
66th Prosecution witness TF1-158, an ex child soldier
65th Prosecution witness TF1-158 will testify with a pseudonym, his name and the names of his family members will be given in private session. Subsequently the witness is called to the stand, sworn in on the Quoran and will testify in Krio.
There was a brief private session to take the witnesses name. When Court was back in open session Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian began his examination in chief.
The witness was born in Bonoya in Bombali District and is now 21 years old.
Attack by the rebels and death of father
When the witness was 10 years old he was living with his father, his aunt and with his younger brothers and sisters in Bonaya. One morning early he went to the mosque with his aunt when rebels came to town, they had guns and machetes. All people in Bonaya are Mandingo. Some rebels came to the mosque and said they were going to burn everybody in the mosque because the people in the village had all voted for Pa Kabbah, the ex-president, who was a Mandingo and born two miles from Bonaya. The witness’s younger sister had come running to say some rebels had mutilated their father. When his father later came to the mosque, rebels caught him and killed him. A woman was there, Adama Cuthand, who the witness said killed his father. The witness described several atrocities committed by the rebels. A pregnant woman’s belly was slit open and the foetus taken out. Two cousins from the witness, children, were put under a mattress and the mattress was put on fire. Both children died. Some rebels were in full combat, others in half combat, some were wearing red headbands. The languages spoken by the rebels were Mende, Krio and Liberian.
Then the rebels blew a whistle. This was the sign for them to go. The witness was forced to carry looted goods for them: rice and ground nuts. He did not want to go with the rebels but was held at gunpoint. They left for Mateboi. There was no one there, they moved on through the bush and reached Rosos. During three days the rebels trained civilians to fight. Staff Alhaji, one of the rebels, conducted the training. They taught the witness how to dismantle a gun, how to clean the gun, how to put the bullet in the magazine, how to fix the magazine on the gun, how to cock and fire the gun. The gun was called two pistol grip, which was as long as is now his arm, too big for the small boy that he was then. He was being trained with about three hundred others, ages from 8 and upwards, both men and women. The witness was given drugs, the rebels said it was to give them courage. Drugs were put under their eye. They pierced it and put cocaine in it. It was just like a brown dust. The witness has a scar of about 2 cm under his left eye from the application of drugs there and said the drugs made him feel like a mad person. He was sent on a food finding mission. He and others went to a village. They stole goats and chicken from civilians, however did not kill anybody and went back to Rosos. Staff Alhaji reported to Gullit and Five-Five. The witness knows this, because after the parade, he would salute his superior and it was three of them: Gullit, Five-Five and O5, but mostly he reported to Gullit. Other rebels had told him the name of these three commanders.
Escape from Rosos
After the food finding mission he stayed about 5 days and then escaped, not using the main road, but a bush path close to the main road. He reached Mateboi, crossed the river and went back to Bonoya. His grandmother showed him the grave of this father behind the house and told him that all his other relatives had fled to Guinea. The witness decided to go to the village of his other grandmother, Kumayusufu, Bombali District. There he heard about the Lomé Accord.
One day there were rumours that the rebels had started fighting again. The following day the rebels attacked Kabala, which is not far from Kumayusufu, all civilians decided to flee into the bush. The witness fled with his grandmother who sent the witness back to the house to collect a forgotten item. On his way he was captured again by rebels who took him to Kamabai, Bombali District, where he underwent military training again. Other civilians were undergoing military training, their ages being between 10 and 15.
Attack on Kabala
The witness joined in on an attack on Kabala. There was heavy fighting, Pa Kabbah’s soldiers had set an ambush and were winning. Many rebels were killed or caught by them. The witness saw Savage who told him to retreat and they returned to Kamabai.
Infighting between SLA and RUF
There was infighting between the SLA and RUF in Makeni. Savage (SLA) wanted to go to Kabala and surrender to Pa Kabbah’s soldiers; Superman and General Issa (both RUF) did not. The witness saw Superman and General Issa shooting from a vehicle to Savage and his men.
The witness decided to go to Kabala. He entered Kabala at the Makakura checkpoint, handed in his gun and was given a wristband with the words “ex child soldier”. Adults were given wristbands with the words “ex combatant”. He was brought to a camp where he was taken care off. Later the ex child soldiers including the witness were transported to Lunsar. The RUF had not yet disarmed and wanted the child combatants to join them again. Some did, some, including the witness, did not.
At this point in the testimony Court was adjourned for the mid morning break.