Charles Taylor said that a 2000 United Nations report charging him with gun running and diamond smuggling made recommendations that that not only hurt him, but punished Liberia. This, Mr. Taylor told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today, was a “travesty of justice.”
For the past three days, Mr. Taylor has been responding to allegations made against him in a 2000 United Nations Expert Panel Report that he was involved in fueling the conflict in Sierra Leone through diamond and arms trade with Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. The UN report reinforces prosecution allegations against Mr. Taylor that he supported RUF rebels through the supply of arms and ammunition in return for diamonds. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.
“This report actually is at the heart of this case and because of the way this report is written, together with the level of disinformation in it, it puts us in a bad position because it talks about diamonds, arms and training bases in Liberia. This is the basis of the case that has not been subject to legal scrutiny,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor accused the UN of writing an intelligence report rather than an investigative report against him, telling the judges that “Ian Smillie was not an academic but an intelligence analyst. This was not a report about going out to an investigation. These are words that you use in an intelligence report. The inclusion of Ian Smillie on the panel contaminated the panel from the onset.”
Mr. Taylor accused the UN of ignoring the good work he did to facilitate a peaceful end to the conflict in Sierra Leone. He said that any fair report would have pointed out that he made significant contributions to take the RUF rebels to the negotiating table. The report, Mr. Taylor said “does not present the whole truth. There is not one mention of my contribution towards peace in Sierra Leone. This report is not fair, it is fickle and should not stand.”
Mr. Taylor told the court that when the report was published in 2000, his government in Liberia sent an immediate response to the UN Secretary General in which they tried to put the record straight. “We were furious and we did not hesitate to respond immediately. The government put a team together and we responded,” he said.
Mr. Taylor told the judges that the Panel of Experts exceeded their mandate by recommending punitive actions against Liberia. “It was like we are accusers and we are now the judge and jury,” Mr. Taylor said about the Panel of Experts.
Among other things, the report recommended that a moratorium be put on all export of diamonds and timber from Liberia. In response to this, Mr. Taylor said that this recommendation was not even necessary as 80-90% of diamonds from Liberia were exported without his government’s knowledge. Mr. Taylor said that there were many conflict diamonds that entered the market from countries like Angola and Congo but were certified as coming from Liberia.
Mr. Taylor also denied allegations in the report that he had a training base at Batala in Liberia where RUF rebels were trained. ” My government denies that anyone order than Liberian personnel were trained at Batala,” he said.
Mr. Taylor dismissed the entire report as a step by Western countries to smear his image and get him out of power. Pointing fingers at the United States, Mr. Taylor said that at some point, US Senator Judd Gregg even asked for his assassination during his presidency.
“I told you I was an accident waiting to happen as part of a regime change policy. This is a travesty of justice. This is all made up, there is no truth in it,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.