Former Liberian President Charles Taylor today dismissed prosecution case against him as full of “disinformation, misinformation, lies and rumors” when he took the stand at the Special Court for Sierra Leone as the first witness in his defense.
When asked by his defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, what he thought about the charges against him, Taylor responded that they are “quite incredible, very unfortunate.” Taylor said he has fought all his life to pursue justice and that the prosecution’s characterization of him was “completely false.”
Taylor also dismissed ideas that he formented war in Sierra Leone and highlighted his role as a peacemaker. He would have to be a “superman” to run his country as president, control insurgency in his own country, while planning and ordering the commission of crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone, he said.
Instead, he invested his energy into fixing his war-torn country and helping other Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders to attain peace in Sierra Leone. Taylor said that for all times that he was in contact with RUF leaders in Sierra Leone, he did so with the consent of ECOWAS leaders. Taylor denied allegations of any association with former RUF leader Foday Sankoh and emphasized that he had no knowledge of earlier RUF plans to attack Sierra Leone in 1991. He was “outraged” when he heard the RUF invaded Freetown on January 6, 1999 after all his work to secure peace.
Taylor also “could not understand” why he was handed over to the Special Court after his ECOWAS peers told him they would work to quash his indictment.
Taylor’s admitted to earlier associations with the RUF. Between August 1991 to May 1992, there was cooperation between the RUF and NPFL because the two groups were fighting against a common enemy, the United Liberation Movement for Democracy (ULIMO), a group Taylor claims was supported by the then government of Sierra Leone under the leadership of Joseph S. Momoh. Mr. Taylor denied ever receiving diamonds from RUF rebels or providing them with arms and ammunition.
Mr. Taylor explained that he led a rebellion as leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) because the then president of the country, Samuel K Doe was leading a “violent campaign against the country.” He said that elections were stolen by Samuel Doe and it therefore became necessary to restore order and democracy in Liberia.
Mr. Taylor admitted that during the conflict in Liberia, his NPFL rebels committed some atrocities but that perpetrators were tried under military law and those found guilty were executed.
Much of today’s testimony, however, described Taylor’s early years, from childhood through to his role as a student leader during the coup d’etat in Liberia in April 1980.