October 3, 2008
This morning Prosecutor Alain Werner continued and terminated his examination in chief of 50th prosecution witness Patrick Sheriff upon which Defense Counsel Terry Munyard began his cross-examination.
Events on December 30, 1998
Sheriff continued his testimony. After the killing and burial of his brother, Gibril Sheriff, the witness, Joseph Kotay and Samuel Conteh went back into the bush, but at a different location. Two days later on December 30, 1998, a rebel found them in the place where they were hiding in the bush. The rebel was wearing plain clothes, had a rifle, was an SLA soldier and identified himself as Joseph “Stop the War”. Joseph took them to Mabureh Town where a group of rebels was located. Other civilians were there and were forced to work for the rebels. The rebels put the three of them to work and they were forced to mash palm fruit in order to process palm oil. They did this for one day, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. At that time an Alpha Jet from ECOMOG flew over, the rebels left running and the witness was able to escape to Malambay, Koya District in the Western area of Sierra Leone.
Invasion of Freetown January 6, 1999 and subsequent events
The witness heard about the invasion of Freetown on the national radio SLBS. Malambay is about a 30 minutes walk from Lumpe, his home town. On January 10, 1999 it was very bright during the night, the rebels were burning houses in Lumpe and Waterloo.
Killing of civilians by rebel commander Peleto
In February 1999 Sheriff was still in Malambay, his home town Lumpe was empty of civilians, only rebels were staying there. A local message (= oral message, as distinct from national announcement = by radio) reached Sheriff and others from the rebels: the civilians belonging to Lumpe should return to Lumpe and not be afraid of the rebels, who would fight for them; however, whoever stayed in the bush would be considered an enemy and would be killed when found by the rebels. The witness and other civilians returned to Lumpe, the section in Lumpe where Sheriff lived was called Manor Corner. Manor Corner was occupied by Peleto and his group; the witness so far had never met Peleto as Peleto used to move around the town and not stay in one place. Peleto used to go out every Friday and kill civilians. One Friday morning early Sheriff saw Peleto and some of his men coming. They met with Mr. Kai who was reading his bible. Peleto told Mr. Kai to drop his bible and stand up. Then Peleto shot Mr. Kai, who died. A little further down was a Limba man eating rice from a pot, he was also shot by Peleto and died. Then Peleto came to the area where the house of the witness was located. After the first killing civilians were running around, shouting: “Peleto is coming, Peleto is coming”. Sheriff and Kotay left the house running. An old lady was also in the house, but she could not run and hid in a room. When Sheriff and Kotay returned to the house that evening at 7 p.m., the old lady had also been shot. The witness described Peleto as being fair in complexion, handsome and of average height. It was the first time he had seen Peleto. Sheriff and Kotay stayed in Manor Corner until the end of February 1999.
ECOMOG forces advancing
At the police station in Waterloo the government set up a camp for displaced persons. The witness moved there. ECOMOG was now advancing from Freetown to flush the rebels out of other areas. To travel around it was necessary to obtain a pass from the ECOMOG forces. The witness obtained a travel pass and went to visit his house in Lumpe. The town was deserted and his house, as well as other houses, was completely burnt down. He saw five corpses by the side of his house. Sheriff returned to the camp and formed a group with other civilians who used to live in that same part of Lumpe. The group went to Lumpe and buried 60 corpses.
The life of the witness now
When asked how these events have affected his life, Patrick Sheriff stated that 1) because of the beating his health deteriorated, he has had operations and still needs medical attention, 2) the rebels killed his only brother who was very close to him and the witness adopted his three children and 3) his house was burnt down, he and his family (8 children) now live in a small two bedroom apartment, he and his wife in one bedroom, the girls in the other bedroom and the boys sleep in the living room.
Terry Munyard began his cross-examination by saying to the witness that the Defense does not dispute the terrible things that happened to him and his family, only that his memory is confused to some extend, due to the awful nature of the events and to the passing of time. Sheriff replied that all the events he has disclosed are the truth, with perhaps the exception of some details concerning distances.
Purpose of this witness’s testimony
Sheriff was first interviewed by the OTP (Office of The Prosecutor) of this Court in September 2003. Munyard established that at this time Sheriff thought he would have to testify against the RUF rebels who committed the atrocities in Lumpe. The witness was aware that at that time in 2003 there were trials going on in Freetown against the RUF, against the Kamajors and the CDF and against the SLA and AFRC. Sheriff has not been asked to testify in these trials.
Identifying the rebels
In December 1998 when the rebels came to Lumpe for the first time Sheriff identified them as Liberian because they shouted “We are the rebels who have come” in different languages, but mostly Liberian English. When asked if the witness could identify the rebels as Liberian in any other way, Sheriff stated that one time he saw a rebel with the letters “RUF” as a tattoo on his arm and that the leader of the six who killed his brother said that he was from Gbarnga, Liberia.
At 11.30 a.m. Court is adjourned for the mid-morning break.