Charles Taylor today said that a 2000 United Nations expert report, which accused him of providing military and financial support to Sierra Leonean rebels in exchange for diamonds, contained an expert who was unfairly biased against Mr. Taylor. He also claimed that his rebel group — which launched a civil war in Liberia in 1989 — got support and equipment from the CIA.
In describing the 2001 United Nations Panel of Experts Report on Gun Running and Diamond Smuggling in Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor said that he raised alarms when he found out who was appointed as the reporting experts. When Ian Smillie–who in a prior report had accused Mr. Taylor of involvement in diamond-for-arms trade in Sierra Leone– was named an expert, Mr. Taylor wrote a letter to the UN Secretary General questioning Mr. Smillie’s appointment. These concerns, Mr. Taylor said, were ignored by the UN and Mr. Smillie remained on the panel.
Mr. Smillie has already testified as an Expert Witness for the Special Court for Sierra Leone’s prosecution against Mr. Taylor.
“I had concerns about people who had made allegations against Liberia being on the panel. You have already prejudiced the report by doing that,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor accused Great Britain and the United States of manipulating the findings of the by putting pressure on Mr. Smillie, who was their own nominee on the panel.
“Britain and America are bringing the pressure. We know that the pressure is coming on Smillie because of the interest,” Mr. Taylor said. “I am confronted with these people who have already made those allegations even before the panel report is out.”
It was no surprise therefore, Mr. Taylor said, that when the Panel of Expert Report came out, he was accused of active involvement in the provision of financial and military support to the rebels in return for diamonds. Mr. Taylor said that while these allegations were made against him, Britain and the United States failed to provide any “tangible evidence” of his involvement in Sierra Leone.
The prosecution has alleged that Mr. Taylor was involved in trading diamonds for arms with Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone. Several prosecution witnesses have testified that RUF rebel commanders took diamonds to Mr. Taylor and in return, he supplied arms and ammunition for use by the RUF rebels. He presently stands accused of bearing responsibility for crimes committed by RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied all the allegations against him.
Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, also today read portions of the book “Intervention in Africa” written by former United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen. In this book, a whole chapter is dedicated to the conflict in Liberia from the late 1980s to the 1990s. Mr. Cohen states in the book that the United States government, through its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), provided support to Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group. In his response, Mr. Taylor confirmed that his NPFL indeed received assistance from the United States.
“We were given some very high power technical radios by the embassy [United States], by the CIA at the time, that we used for rapid communications, that we could call almost any where in the world and get to anybody that we wanted to get to on the ground,” Mr. Taylor said.
He explained that the assistance from the United States government was given to the NPFL as a deal to protect United States facilities in Liberia.
Mr. Taylor also accused the United States of providing similar support to other rebel groups in Liberia.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.