Wednesday January 28, 2009
3:00pm: Court resumed and witness TF1-174 concluded his testimony while prosection witness TF1-303 commenced her examination-in-chief.
Examination of Witness TF1-174
Prosecution counsel Nicholas Koumjian continued and concluded the examination of witness TF1-174. Counsel asked several questions about Operation Barras and the witness’s continued work with children in Makeni. When asked about Operation Barras, the witness said that the said operation took place at the end of 2001. He said it was an operation by British Forces to secure the release of their abducted nationals by the West Side Boys, who were a group of renegade AFRC soldiers. According to the witness, after this operation, 30 children were brought to the Interim Care Center. He said that there were family reunifications for some of these children. Asked about the kinds of drugs used by the children, the witness said that few of them took cocaine while the majority of them smoked marijuana since it was cheaper to obtain. Asked whether he still sees the effects of the war in daily lives, the witness responded that several post-war effects include scars on the bodies of children, lack of education among them, some still remain un-reunified with their families and remain in difficult circumstances. About the girls, the witness said that single parenthood is prevalent among them and some can no longer marry because people dont want to be associated with them.
Thus ended the examination of the witness.
Defense counsel for Mr. Taylor, Courtenay Griffiths QC commenced the cross-examination of the witness. Counsel first commended the witness and expressed admiration for his work during those troubling times in the country. Counsel then asked the witness about the RUF presence in Makeni. The witness agreed with counsel that when the RUF entered Makeni in December 1998, there were fightings for 3-4 days, lots of looting but no burning of houses. When asked about rape, the witness said that he heard of rape cases during the attack. He agreed with counsel that Issa Sesay’s effort brought about some calm but that the observance of thr rule of law was intermitent. He said he cannot agree that there was order in Makeni or any period of calm. He also agreed with counsel that in February and December 1998, there were two episodes of violence in Makeni. He said that Issa Sesay was in charge in Makeni upto the time of the disarmament in the country. He further said that for the most part, some parts of Makeni were calm while some were not. He gave as an example the fact that the rebels were always on food finding missions.
Counsel asked the witness about General Bropleh and the STF. The witness said that he cannot say whether the STF were part of the Sierra Leone Army (SLA). He said that the STF were working with the RUF in Makeni. Asked what the STF was before their association with the RUF, the witness said he did not know. He said he also cannot say whether the STF were ever part of ULIMO.
January 1999 Attack on Freetown
When asked about who led the January 1999 attack on Freetown, the witness said that based on what he heard, the fighters were led by the AFRC soldiers but that he cannot divorce the RUF from the operation since they were all working together. He agreed with counsel that since he was not in Freetown during these attacks, most of the information he heard was either from people or from the radio. He said he heard that the attack was led by SAJ Musa. Asked whether the RUF refusal to take part in the attack was the cause of infighting between the two groups, the witness said he cannot say. Counsel quoted the witness’s first statement to the prosecution on August 14, 2003 that the attack was mostly led by the SLA and that the job of the RUF was to give a helping hand. He said that because the RUF refused to give the SLA said helping hand, that was the cause of the infighting between the two groups. The witness denied saying this and said he cannot say why such a thing was written in his statement. The witness said when his statement was read to him, the contents were not explained. Counsel referenced his February 11 2004 statement in which it is stated that the witness had made corrections to his earlier statement. Counsel asked the witness why he had not corrected the portion in question. The witness responded that he read the statement in haste and that he originally did not take the whole issue seriously as he was opposed to the Special Court. He said that he cannot give a full account of who was responsible for the Freetown invasion of 1999 because he only heard stories. He said he knew the troops were led by SAJ Musa but cannot say whether the RUF fighters only stopped at Waterloo.
Counsel sought to get information from the witness about infightings between the RUF and AFRC. The witness explained that Superman tried to kill Issa Sesay and the latter fled to Magburaka. He said that for sometime, Superman controlled Makeni but that Issa’s loyalists fought back on April 22-23 1999. He agreed with counsel that in October 1999, the AFRC soldiers left Makeni and that the RUF remained in control of the town until the time of the disarmament process.
The witness said that since he did not interact much with Issa Sesay, he cannot say he would recoznize his voice. Counsel asked the witness whether he thought Issa was the person who spoke with the BBC during the January 1999 invasion of Freetown. Prosecution counsel Mr. Koumjian raised an objection on grounds that the evidence did not state that Issa was the person who did the interview but that it was one Col. Sesay.
Counsel asked the witness about children whom he said had gone to Liberia. The witness explained that the children shared their experiences with him that they had accompanied their commanders to Liberia where they had taken diamonds and obtained new guns and clothing. He said the children did not tell him they fought in Liberia.
Counsel asked the witness whether he knew of a letter written by Issa to Sankoh seeking his approval before taking up the leadership of the RUF. The witness said he knew of no such letter. He also could not say whether West African heads of states had called Issa to a meeting in Liberian and convinced him to take up the leadership of the RUF.
Thus ended the cross-examination of the witness.
Prosecution counsel Mr. Koumjian re-examined the witness. During re-eexamination, the witness explained that during the periods of calm, there were child soldiers in Makeni and that commanders kept abducted girls as their wives. He said that there were food finding missions and abduction of children continued during the periods of calm.
Counsel indicated that he was finished with re-examination of the witness. He then tendered various exhibits into evidence.
Thus ended the testimony of the witness.
Examination of Witness TF1-303, Finda Gbamanja
The next prosecution witness was led in evidence by Ms. Brenda Hollis. The witness, a female, is testifying in open and in the Krio language. The witness said that when rebels attacked Kono in 1998, she was in Koidu, Kono District. She said that because of the rebel attack, she left Koidu and together with her family and other civilians, they ran to the bush. She said that during the rebel attack, many civilians were caught in the cross-fire. She said she heard that the rebels were trying to escape with Johnny Paul Koroma. According to the witness, her brother, who returned to Koidu came back and told her that many civilians were killed during this period. The witness said that she moved to a village called Baima but had to leave for the bush again when the rebels got to the village. While hiding in the bush, she said that the rebels came and captured civilians, killing some and raping girls in the process. She said a boy was killed in her presence. The boy, she said was carrying a baby in his arms. The rebels, she said took the baby from the boy’s arms, threw the baby into the bush and killed the boy. The witness further explained that the rebels chased them in the bush and that in the process captured some ladies and raped them. Asked how she knew that the girls were raped, the witness explained that the girls told her about it and that she saw them bleeding. The witness said that she was older than the girls who were raped.
Court adjourned for the day and the witness is set to continue her testimony tomorrow.