Prosecutor Rapp’s Answers to Your Questions: A three part series starting tomorrow

Dear Readers,

Tomorrow we will post the first of a series of three posts from our Q & A session this past weekend with Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Mr. Stephen Rapp.  We’ll post the second on Thursday and the third on Friday this week. 

In the meantime, some readers had asked about why Mr. Rapp chose Monrovia for his farewell press conference last month.  As it turns out, he actually conducted his final one in Freetown today — if you are interested, here is a press report from Sierra Leone:,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=6571&cntnt01returnid=15.

Mr. Rapp will take up his new post with the US State Department in Washington DC as the US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes next week.

Meanwhile, we hope Mr. Griffiths feels better soon, hopefully in time for the continuation of testimony by Mr. Taylor in court tomorrow.

Finally, I also just wanted to take a moment to congratulate our monitor, Alpha Sesay, for the excellent  job he’s been doing in reporting for us on the trial every day.  Without him and his great work, our discussions each day would not be possible.  Thank you Alpha!


  1. The people of Sierra Leone highly appreciate Mr. Rapp for bringing to justice those who bare the greatest responsibility for the atrocities that was committed in Sierra Leone. Kudos Mr. Rapp.

    On the contrary, most Liberians are giving thumb down to Mr. Rapp for the disingenuous persecution of President Charles Taylor. The persecution was too anxious to convict as a result they rushed to judgment. Most of the persecution evidence is base on theory and hear said. As a seasoned persecutor, Mr. Rapp should have had the capabilities to separate fact from fractions and not peruse a case that is baseless and lack of foundations

  2. Tracey,

    I agree Alpha Sesay is doing a magnificent job. Sometimes people on the front lines don’t get the credit they deserve. Keep up the good work Alpha!

  3. Yes, Alpha has really been doing a great job. But I also want to caution Alpha to be very careful in his reporting. For example, in one of Alpha summary his wording of Mr. Taylor’s testimony suggested that Taylor indicated that he granted citizenship to Sam Bokarie, which was not the case. But in all, Alpha has really been doing a great job.

    And you too Tracey, you have been doing a great job and is becoming a real celebrity among certian group of Liberians. I was recently at a Liberian event and the issue of this trial came out and guys were talking about this blog and had a lot of praises for Tracey. I believe that Tracey has demonstrated a high degree of professionalism in tolerating our high level of emotionalism. Tracey has been very kind in understanding how much passion this case brings to some of us because we were all direct victims of the Liberian uncivil war.

    Thank you Tracey!

    1. King Gray – I’m both flattered and honored! Thank you for telling me this. It has made my day.

      On the issue of reporting, I do understand what you are saying about the importance of accuracy in our daily posts. I’m glad you raised it. I think one of the major challenges of doing the monitoring every day, as Alpha does, is sorting through an enormous amount of information that comes out during the testimony and boiling it down to the key issues that go to the heart of the charges in the indictment. Sometimes it is hard to capture the nuances with so few words to reflect those nuances. It is even harder when the posts are edited each day to ensure it fits with our new style — in that, I must also take the blame for any concerns you have on that front too, as I do the final review before Alpha’s post goes up each day. It is entirely possible I may change words that may also unwittingly change the meaning of issues – the perils of editing! I think in general Alpha does an amazing job in finding the right words to convey the complexity of what is happening in the courtroom, and I hope my stylistic edits don’t undercut the accuracy of his work. You have reminded me to be even more vigilant in my own work on this front to try to ensure that the meaning conveyed in the courtroom is reflected in our posts. And I don’t think Alpha would mind me saying that both he and I also welcome readers’ comments and questions when you think we are not capturing issues correctly or would like us to clarify issues that arise in our daily reporting. Our whole goal is to try to get as accurate information as possible on this site to readers in a way that is also interesting and focused on the issues that go to the heart of the charges against Mr. Taylor and which he is defending himself against. Having readers who also monitor us while we monitor the trial is welcome and valuable, as it helps us also to correct any problems or misleading impressions we may have unwittingly left.

      But more generally, in terms of where credit lays for this site, I do think that the kudos goes to the readers on the site for really working to harness the emotion that this trial naturally evokes in people who have, as you point out, been direct victims of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean wars, and channel it towards the types of discussions that we have seen on this site — about the credibility of the testimony in the trial, about what the rule of law means, about the role of Security Council and the care it needs to take in issuing resolutions in relation to trials such as this one, and about people’s vision of the future for Liberia and Sierra Leone (whether in terms of accountability, education, governance). My own sense is that it is the readers on this site who are taking this trial and this forum as an opportunity to reflect on the past and look forward to the (hopefully brighter) future.

      Thanks again King Gray for your comments.

      My best,

      1. Tracey,

        I just wanted take our sentiments to another level. I had been withholding this thought until the trial was over, but I think I should disclose it. I believe my Liberian brothers and to some extent Sierra Leoneans neighbors would not have much reservation about this idea.

        I was thinking that we could recommend to the Liberian Government that Ellen bestows upon Tracey and Alpha the highest honor that Liberia grants. They could be inducted honorarily into one of the ORDERS that Liberia has. All this great work deserve commensurable recognition and should not go unnoticed.

        Tracey, do not be flattered. I believed that this job has afforded you the opportunity to have encountered Liberians and evaluate whom they are. We are just hospitable, peaceful and grateful set of people. In our african tradition and customs gratitude and gratefulness are strong values. Our elders respect these values. If you did something for our little village or its chief, you would be amazed as to the kind of recognition they will give you. So do not be amazed. okay?

        That is my view. your comments expected.

        1. Andrew,

          I have been amazed for a long time at the deep generosity and hospitality I have always encountered whenever I have visited Sierra Leone and Liberia. The values and attributes you describe fit perfectly with what I have experienced both in person and on this blog. Of that, I have never doubted, and I agree with you. The vibrancy of the communities in civil society, the legal profession, within sectors of the governments (local and national), and also out in the villages makes me think the future for Sierra Leone and Liberia is going to be much brighter as both countries work to reconstruct after the wars. The readers and those who comment on this site are surely going to play a significant role in that process.

          Though truly honored by your thoughts and suggestions for some kind of official recognition for the site, I must say that both Alpha and I already feel very valued by those of you who read and comment on this site. We are grateful for your kind words. And to see so many comments every day is one of the best indications to us that this site is contributing something useful, even if only a platform for people to discuss and debate the important issues that this trial raises. It is a pleasure to be not only working on this site daily, but also engaging with people such as yourself who also are following the trial so closely. I think I have mentioned here before that I learn something new from readers every day and I look forward to see what people are talking about after each post.

          Thank you again, Andrew. Your thoughtfulness is deeply appreciated. I look forward to our continued conversations on this site.


    2. Hey King,

      Alpha Sesay was right. Hear this from the Horse’s mouth:

      “And, in fact, we did two things when Bockarie came to
      Liberia. Under the constitution of Liberia, individuals of Negro
      descent, according to the constitution, are entitled to
      citizenship in Liberia. We can grant citizenship to any black
      man from anywhere in the world within 48 hours, you are entitled
      to citizenship and land. So what we did immediately Bockarie
      came, Sam Bockarie and all of the individuals that came with him
      were granted upon their own acquiescence citizenship in Liberia.
      The combatants were granted citizenship and we will explain this
      later where they were put into security. They were retrained
      into certain security agencies, but they were granted full
      citizenship that we would have control over them.

      Q. Did that include Sam Bockarie?
      A. Yes.”

      Pages 26863-64 of the August 17, 2009 transcript of the trial: Prosecutor Vs Charles Taylor.

      Mere persistent denial on this issue can’t hold water. Mr. Taylor is making inconsistent statements, if I may be a little euphemistic. In Mr. Stephen Rapp’s words: Mr Taylor is telling lies in court.

      1. Thanks, Musa, for the clarification on that issue of Sam Bockarie’s citizenship. Much appreciated.

        As an update: Noko4 and King Gray – Alpha and I also double checked this transcript and Musa’s quotation is correct. You can find the transcript here: I hope this allays the concerns you had raised, King Gray?

        In general, we continue to welcome readers’ concerns and requests for clarification on specific issues. I can vouch that Alpha is extremely professional, takes his role as an objective monitor very seriously, and he goes to great lengths to ensure his reporting is as accurate as possible. And it is because of that, both he and I would rather know, than not know, if readers have questions about specific issues raised in our posts so we can either confirm their accuracy or correct them if there are problems. So please do alert us if you have worries in the future.


        1. Tracey and Alpha,

          I will try as much as humanly possible to be objective in my commentary on the trial of Mr. Taylor.

          I can’t go without saying thank you for the kind of opportunity you have afforded many readers like me to engage in constructive debate on the trial of Mr. Taylor. Andrew and others have already commended and recognized your invaluable efforts. I share their commendations. Hats off to you.

          I remain.

          1. Hi Musa,

            As a reader and follower of the trial, you are absolutely entitled and welcome to be either as objective or subjective as you wish in your commentary on this site. This is a space for everyone’s opinions about the trial and the issues that it raises to be aired and debated and discussed. They do not necessarily have to be objective. I think LiberianActivist07 made this point well in her posting this morning.

            On the other hand, as monitors of the trial, it our job to ensure we report daily on the happenings of the trial as objectively as possible. As monitors, we do not take the side of either the defense or the prosecution, but try to take a balanced approach to our reporting and analysis.

            Readers are free, however, to take whatever approach they wish, as long as it doesn’t breach our one main rule: that is to focus on the trial and not on each other with personal attacks – and also just to keep within the terms and conditions of use of the site (you can access them through the link at the bottom of our homepage).

            Thanks again for your kind words, Musa, and also for checking on the transcript about Sam Bockarie’s citizenship. It was helpful research which we appreciate.


        2. Tracey,
          The citizenship was NOT my concern….Mr. Taylor was asked if he granted citizenship to Sam, how did he then deported him….and his response was one who giveth can taketh it.

          Again, don’t want to put down Alpha’s job….EXCELLENT. But sometimes what I saw then read from him are little bit off.

          1. Hi Noko4,

            Thanks for your comment. Would you mind explaining in a little more detail what your concern is so that I can make sure that we can address it properly in our response? Was it that the information you highlight in your comment was not included in our reports, or that it was not explained, or was it something else?

            Best, with thanks,

  4. Thanks for this site……Thanks to Tracey and Alpha!!! On the whole, they have made me into a LAWYER without a day in class. My friends are now calling me Perry Mason.

    I do agree with King Gray that sometimes I wonder if Alpha is been in his report but on the whole, he is doing a GOOD JOB. Tracey, please increase his wages on behalf of members of this room…..ha ha

    1. Noko4,
      Thanks for your compliments and your appreciation of the work that we do. It is really good to know that you are following this trial with keen interest and your desire for full details of proceedings is very welcome.

      On the issue you raised above regarding Mr. Taylor granting citizenship to Sam Bockarie and then withdrawing it after wards, i refer you to this portion of the Thursday August 27 2009 transcript below. Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel was asking him about his step to get RUF elements, including Sam Bockarie out of Liberia after the release of the UN Panel of Experts Report on Sierra Leone. See below:
      A. Sam Bockarie departed Liberia in 2001, yes.
      Q. When?
      A. We – that’s in February of 2001, early February. Early to mid-February, Sam Bockarie leaves.
      Q. And goes where?
      A. Well, he goes through la Cote d’Ivoire, and we do not know where he goes beyond that.
      Q. Who else leaves with him?
      A. I think Sam Bockarie took a handful of individuals. I don’t think not more than five or ten persons. But the rest of the people are in Liberia, they are Liberians. So, for us, that’s not our problem. They are Liberians.
      Q. Well, I was coming to deal with that. What about those who had been inducted into the ATU?
      A. Well, they were Liberian citizens. And unless they did something for us to withdraw their citizenship, as in the case of Sam Bockarie, we saw no reason to expel them.
      Q. Well, what had Sam Bockarie done to justify you in withdrawing his citizenship?
      A. Well, Sam Bockarie had become the centre of an allegation that was bringing untold harm to the republic. And since he was born in Liberia and had been granted this citizenship by virtue of the rights of the President under the constitution, that harm that was coming to the republic was sufficient to withdraw it.

      August 27 2009, Page 27916, Lines 2-25

      I hope this addresses your concerns. Otherwise, i’ll appreciate it if you can explain further what exactly you seek clarification to. Thanks again for your active participation on this forum.

      Best Regards,

  5. I agree with you all. This site is objective in its accurate reporting of events in the trial than others which even will you are still on the very first sentence you sense that they are just biased.

  6. NOKO4

    I think Obama can do very well without your vote. He such a great person.

    My congratulations go out for Mr. Rapp, for having the audacity to bring these cronies to justice, no matter their political affiliation and status.

    I don’t think Perry Mason analyze cases as you do.

    By the way Tracey I didn’t know you visited Liberia.

    Thanks for great job.

    1. Mr. Flomoku,
      Every VOTE counts in case you don’t know….and the next election will be down to the wire…..

      Now if Mr. Rapp was any DA in the US, this case will NOT see DAYLIGHT……

      plus, MANDATE of this court!!!

      This court was a CHAPTER 6…..mainly LOCAL. The US and Britain decided to turn it into a CHAPTER 7….ran with whatever they thought was LEGIT only to now see they don’t stand the test. But we will see.

      As for Perry Mason, you know you enjoy my take in here…..ha ha ha

    1. Mr. Flomoku,
      I now see WHY you are LOST on the FACT….you just now wanting to know where the transcripts are???? Chay!!

      1. NOKO 4

        I don’t need to look at the transcript to know what Taylor did.

        The summary is superb by Tracey and her crew.

        Only for future reference, to remind me of his lies.

  7. Hi Tracey,
    Just great for you, Dear Lady.
    You and Alpha are doing so weel for the young generations. You have said it…”that we can reflect on the past”, what are the present and what to come, but in all to come down to building a brighter future. This is really what I’ve learned about this great site. I wish most Lib. & Sl had access to computer/internet. But thank God for the few opportuned. We are beginning to grow anyway.
    Sorry Tracey that I’m not contributing much on this site, it’s all because of VERY BASIC schedules EVERYDAY away from computer. But I do quick check-Ins, like now, to know what’s up on the case.
    Yes, we all say BRAVO and KUDOS ( I’ve learned something new here – “KUDOS”) to you and Alpha. For us the readers, this is one of our many opportunities to know the facts and learn more in preparing us for tomorrow. Thanks Fellows for being there too.
    Oh, I’ve got to go.

    1. Dolo,

      Thank you for your kind note. I am glad you find the site helpful.

      And please don’t be sorry for not contributing often on the site — as with all readers, we hope people feel free to comment or not as they have time available – I know everyone is very busy. If you just want to read to catch up on events when you don’t have time for discussions, that is great too. Regardless, you are always welcome to contribute as and when you wish, and we will look forward to your contributions whenever you have time.


  8. Many thanks Mr. Rapp, in the past some african leaders like Taylor had assumed that he was God and never thought that he would be called to account for his brutalities against mankind. your action has sent a clear message across the entire continent of Africa, and hope your new appointment as ambassidor for war crimes will enable you to exposed these criminals hiding behind the banners of rebel leadership/military junters turn president by the barrel of the guns. but for all you have done for the peace loving people of Sierra Leone and Liberia, I wish to extend my supports to you and many thanks to president Obama for your apponitment. I belived these charges will stick on mr. Taylor because he has no legal explaination for his actions but to denial and point fingers at others. one day this case will be over and Taylor will take his rightful place behind bars and you Mr.Rapp will always be applauded on the continent of Africa.

    1. Ziggy Silas,

      I had hoped in your praises for Mr. Rapp you would have admonished him to bring war crime charges against his former president George Bush. You seem content that only Africans should be brought before international courts. Are you aware that before the American government okayed the Special Court for Sierra Leone that they insisted that no American citizen could be tried at the court.

  9. Tracey and Alpha,

    First, I would be foolish not to acknowledge the work and contributions you all have provided, that have been the platform for discussions. I think you have done a stupendous job. We have grown an admiration for you and your work. I thank you!

    I would also like to thank Rapp for taking time to answer our questions. Someone in this forum was confused because I did not use the phrase, “in advance”. Anyhow, it is irrelevant; I still think he needs to be thanked because he “elected to do so”. I still disagree on the premise of this trail. I am still not convinced that he or his team have sealed the deal. In my opinion his outlandish accusations and sales pitches are pleasing or torturing only for the biased, but for the objective minds, the case is weak. Yet, I thank him for being considerate to answer our questions…and congratulate him on his new post.

    1. Thanks Bnker. We appreciate your comments.

      The first installment of Mr. Rapp’s interview will be posted later today. Stay tuned!


  10. Musa,

    I believe that I posted a comment in response to yours as noted above. I conceded that both accounts seem inconsistent. I also said that it would be interesting to see what the prosecution did on cross-examination so as to impeach the testimony. To impeach his testimony would be a great setback for him, agreed.

    In the same token, the defense was able to highlight several inconsistencies in the testimonies of witnesses. Most often, I observed that the witnesses suggested that the investigators quoted them incorrectly or misrepresented the situation.

    Whether we categorize these as lie to use the word of Rapp, or evidence tempering will be an issue the judges will have to decide upon.

    I also noted personally that I did not appreciate a statement in your post that said: “Your trick did not work.” I was of the view that we were engaging in healthy discussions for the good of our beloved country, region and continent. I do not believe there is any act of trickery here. Besides we stand to gain nothing by engaging in open trickery that could be detected by anyone on the net, and such acts of trickery would be so infantile to conceive. But I stand to be corrected. And I just wanted to bring that to your attention.

Comments are closed.