Morning Session: Testimony of 73rd Prosecution Witness Akiatu Tholley Continues

The Hague

October 27, 2008

This morning Lead Prosecutor Brenda Hollis continued her examination in chief of 73rd Prosecution witness TF1-085 Akiatu Tholley and established the following.

Rebel encounters previous to capture

Akiatu described three encounters with rebels coming to her house before the day she was captured. The first time was at night; rebels came and stole money from her mother. The second time was the following day, the rebels wanted to rape her, but Akiatu pleaded and they listened to her. They stole food and left. The following day her mother went to the rebels to ask if a rebel could stay in the house, so they would no longer be bothered by other rebels. A rebel came to stay with two of his boys. Akiatu partly overheard a conversation one of these boys had with her mother; the boy told her mother that he had been captured in Kono by the AFRC and that they had all come from the bush to Freetown. The rebels spent two days at the house.

Eating of human hearts

Akiatu continued relating her events. She walked from Allen Town to Waterloo, seeing houses on fire, civilians being amputated and killed by the rebels. Five-Five was the overall commander. Akiatu was still with Captain James. They spent a long time in Waterloo and from there left for Masiaka. There was fighting along the way, the rebels fighting the Kamajors. Some Kamajors were killed, others were captured. The captured Kamajors had to carry loads. From the killed Kamajors the rebels took out their hearts and cooked them. The civilians had to line up before the rebels and were forced to eat the human hearts. The ones who refused to eat were killed. The witness first refused to eat the heart, she was then beaten up and threatened to be killed. Then she ate.

Time in Masiaka

They eventually reached Masiaka. By this time Akiatu was considered one of James’s “wives”. She did not want to be his wife, but there was not other option. She did not see any fighting going on, the civilians went about their usual business. Issa Sesay was there and had said it was his town, and that nobody should loot or rape. Captain James took over a house from civilians; he lived there with his boys and wives. The civilians to whom the house belonged stayed there as well and had to do the domestic work. The other wives of James and the boys of James sometimes went on fighting missions against civilians in other villages: looting and sometimes killing civilians. They would tell her about it after they had come home.

Command structure

James told Akiatu that he was and STF, a ULIMO soldier. He had been part of the Liberian war up until the time he joined the rebels. James was the ground commander of Masiaka. There were other commanders there: Five-Five, Gold Teeth and Daramy. The witness had met Gold Teeth before when he came to her house before her capture. Daramy had also come to her house before her capture and had threatened to burn the house with Akiatu and her family inside. They pleaded with him. A soldier passed by and spoke with Daramy who then left with this soldier and the house was not burned. Five-Five was the boss of them all.

Treatment by other wives of James and attempt to escape

Akiatu was treated badly by the other wives of James. They used to beat her. Some of them were captured in Kono, five were captured in Freetown, and two were brought from Liberia. One of the wives, Fatmata, had tried to poison her. Another wife of James told her not to eat the food. That very night she tried to escape. She met two women on the road who were also trying to escape and the three of them went together. They were stopped by a rebel who tied up all three of them. This rebel used a razor blade to mark AFRC RUF on the chest of the two women, however he did not do this to Akiatu. This rebel took the three of them back and turned her over to James. James beat her up and then gave her marihuana. She went unconscious. Later he also used to inject her with cocaine. The effect of the drugs was that she had a change of mind: she did not cry anymore and did no longer want to go home. James began to teach her how to use a weapon.

Food finding mission and first killing

About two days after Akiatu had been given drugs for the first time she went with others on a food finding mission in a village not far from Masiaka. They met a woman and her children at a house. After they had looted everything the woman did not want to come with the rebels. The boys told Akiatu to kill the woman. She did not want to do it. The boys gave her marihuana to smoke and then she killed the woman. They took two of her children and made them carry the looted items.

Training and escape

From Masiaka the witness was transferred to Port Loko where she received military training. Men and women were being trained there, including boys as young as eight. She was trained by a woman, but does not know the name of the woman. After the training Masiaka was sent to Korobola to fight. They fought against Kamajors but also killed civilians. She killed a civilian because she had seen her colleagues kill civilians. After this killing she dropped her gun and decided to escape to Lunsar, because of the wicked things she had started doing. At Lunsar she surrendered to ECOMOG, who at first thought she was a spy and who beat her up. She was later taken to the police station in Kisi Town in Freetown. She was also beaten up by the police. The police later contacted her family who took her to the UNICEF hospital. She was given treatment for her drug abuse. She was pregnant at the time and they gave her an abortion and cleaned her womb. She had been pregnant twice before, but had miscarriages both times.


Defense Counsel Morris Anyah conducted his cross-examination and established the following.
Akiatu testified on April 6, 2005 in the AFRC case that she was born on February 28, and that at the time she was 19 years old, so at the time of the events she must have been about 13 years old. She said she does not remember saying that, but remembered that rats ate her birth certificate.
The witness had about twelve meetings with the OTP, on two occasions they spoke about the impact the events had on her. In May 2007, she told the prosecutors that when she came back her family embraced her. Now she is respected in the community and has no psychological problems due to the events that happened to her. The witness stated in Court that the events at the time did affect her.

Eating of human flesh

Anyah put before the witness that in statements she made to the Prosecution she said that she was made to eat human flesh on three occasions. The first time was when James killed the old woman who was making herbs for her to stop the bleeding after her first rape by James. The statement said that James killed the old woman and told her to eat the old woman’s heart. The witness stated in Court that James killed the woman but did not give her the heart to eat. She only ate a human heart on the occasion of killing the Kamajors when the rebels were on their way to Waterloo.

Invasion of Freetown

Anyah established that the first time rebels came to the house of Akiatu was January 5, 1999. On this occasion they abducted her cousin Amina. Amina was released the following day and nothing bad happened to her: she was not raped or beaten. The next day in the night rebels came again. They wanted to rape Akiatu, but when she pleaded they did not rape her. They were armed, but did not rape or amputate anyone in the house. The third day her mother went to the rebels to ask if a rebel could stay in their house, so they would be left alone by other rebels. A rebel came to stay with them, together with two of his boys. One was a small boy, about six years old, he had a gun strapped around his shoulder, and it would drag on the floor.

At this moment in her testimony Court is adjourned at 11.30 a.m. for the mid-morning break.