Your interest in hearing from Mr. Rapp was enormous. Thanks for all the questions. Unfortunately, we did not have time to cover all the questions that people asked. But we did get through a number of them. Many related to issues that a lot of people asked about. We also tried to get at least one question from most people answered – though again, unfortunately we did not get to everyone’s answers because there were so many questions and so little time available for Mr. Rapp as he tried to answer the questions we had while in between flights that would take him to West Africa.
Today, we’ve posted the first installment. We will post the next set tomorrow, and then the next one on Friday.
And with a big thank you to Mr. Rapp for taking the time to answer our questions in his last week on the job, here goes Part I:
A number of readers asked about the allegations of Taylor’s secret bank accounts. We grouped them together to ask Mr. Rapp:
Noko 4 asked: “1. We have heard from you about BILLIONS you claimed Mr. Taylor has in various banks, Mr. Taylor has challenged the entire world to produce a single deposit, moreso, the various accounts. So far, you and your staff have failed to produce anything, WHY??? Are there said accounts, if so, we will see said evidence presented in this court??? If you don’t produce said evidence, what does that do to your case given you have beaten the horse to death on this issue??”
Similarly Kpakoja said: “It’s being awhile now since you made us to understand that Taylor has millions of blood diamond money stacked in foreign banks. To date you have not shown us dime of the Taylor millions. Don’t you thinkl it is time that you show the millions to further boost the prosecution case? Taylor has challenge you and everyone else on this planets to show proof that he has millions in hiding. You want to tell me that Taylor is that sophisticated that you can’t find the money you alleged he has? Now you are talking about assets he owned. The only asset Taylor has is the house in Congo Town, Monrovia which won’t even sell for half a million dollar.”
Abe Lincoln wrote: “It is stated Mr. Taylor has FIVE BILLION DOLLARS in a NY Bank. As a result of the war, I lost my ten year old daughter in 1990 in Liberia. Please tell me when I’ll be compensated for the lost of my child? I’m urgently awaiting your response. I need part of the FIVE BILLION, hurry!”
Zobon asked: “Will you show us were Mr.Taylor allege monies are?”
Meanwhile, Andrew Jlay asked: “Do we expect to see the prosecution confronting Mr. Taylor with his various bank accounts and inquire from him as to how he got $5 billion dollars?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER:
I would refer the questioner to the record of the bank accounts discovered during the investigations by the United Nations Panel of Experts. You can actually see part of the bank account record yourself on the UN website, under the links to the Security Council and the Liberia Sanctions Committee. This is the bank account of Charles Ghankay Taylor on which he was personal signatory at the LBDI in Monrovia. During the time it was open, millions of dollars were deposited in the account. The most notorious transaction was one where the Oriental Timber Company deposited US $1,999,975 in the morning into the Liberian Treasury and the same US $1,999,975 went into this personal account at LBDI that very afternoon. From the ledger pages on the UN website, you can see Taylor then making withdrawals and transfers of hundreds of thousands of US dollars.
This is only emblematic of how Taylor allegedly took personal possession of the public resources of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Of course, what he did with Liberian resources is not directly relevant to the case at the Special Court except to the extent that it reflects on his honesty and credibility as a witness. However, Taylor’s resources could become very important if he is convicted because under international law a judgment of conviction would establish his liability to compensate the victims or survivors of crimes for which he is held responsible. These victims would have a legal claim anywhere in the world against Charles Taylor or his property. Because we care deeply about these victims, we have been developing information about his accounts and sharing it with the United Nations Panel of Experts and national prosecuting authorities so that assets can be traced and eventually made available to the victims. It is a process that has the potential to benefit victims, but this will only begin as to those in Sierra Leone if there is a conviction of Charles Taylor for crimes alleged in our indictment.
Noko 4 asked: “Why isn’t Pres. Kabbah on trial when some of his deputies are facing jail terms; according to some of them, they got INSTRUCTIONS from him. In other words, isn’t he LINKED to their crimes they committed since Mr. Taylor is been LINKED to crimes by RUF???”
Jose Rodriguez wondered: “One of the prosecution witnesses said his legs and arms were amputated by Tejan Kabah army, why isn’t the government of kabah on trial?”
T-Bone asked: “having indicted the late Hinga Norman on war crimes and crimes against humanity , and knowing fully well, that everything that Norman did was done , in the name , and with the blessing of Tejan Kabbah , why has he ( Kabbah ) not been indicted?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER:
There is no question that President Kabbah, while he was in exile in Guinea in 1997-1998, ordered the establishment of the Civil Defense Forces. This CDF participated in efforts to overthrow the AFRC/RUF junta. During its operations, some of its units committed atrocities against civilians, and two of its leaders have been convicted at the Special Court. But the commission of atrocities by these units did not make Kabbah responsible unless it could be proven that he had knowledge of the crimes and, despite that knowledge, provided assistance that substantially aided the commission or caused the commission of those crimes, or that he intended to commit those crimes as part of his strategy or common scheme or plan, or that he ordered or instigated the specific crimes.
We are not prosecuting people because they fought a war on one side or the other. It is not an international crime for rebels to try to take over a country, and certainly it is not one for a deposed legitimate government to try to restore itself to power. What is a crime is to commit atrocities against civilians. We followed the proof on the CDF as high up as we could, and that led to the person who was in effective control of the CDF in the field, the late Chief Sam Hinga Norman. We presented witnesses who said that before the attack on Koribundo he ordered CDF soldiers to kill everyone that they found in the town and to destroy all buildings except the mosque, the court, and the school. We had other witnesses who said that Norman was angry afterwards when he saw some civilians who had been allowed to live. We had no evidence that Kabbah knew about such attacks from his exile in Guinea and we saw that these kinds of acts ended when he returned to Sierra Leone. Indeed when Hinga Norman was asked in his own trial whether Kabbah had been involved in the choice of tactics, he said no.
By contrast, the evidence that we have presented in The Hague has shown that Charles Taylor consistently encouraged the use of the tactics of terror. He is quoted by several witnesses as saying that it was necessary to make people “fearful,” and he did this both in Liberia and Sierra Leone by encouraging the commission of atrocities. I have heard the comment that the tactic of chopping of hands and arms did not occur in Liberia as it did in Sierra Leone. However, as the Trial Chamber noted in its decision denying the defense motion to dismiss, a witness said that the RUF asked Taylor about this tactic and he approved it because it would make people “fearful.”
People in Liberia do not forget “Operation Octopus” and all of the atrocities committed by Taylor’s NPFL forces. They remember road blocks made of human intestines. They remember the chant he used to gain election—“He killed my Pa, he killed my Ma, I’ll vote for him.” They remember the public display of human skulls on pikes, and indeed Charles Taylor in his testimony still does not see anything wrong with such display.
Noko 4 asked: “There was an Accord signed that ended the war in July ‘99. From my understanding, that Accord FORGAVE ALL for whatever they did during the war years. As I read the charges against MOST, especially Mr. Taylor, MOST of his charges occurred before the Accord was signed. So why isn’t the Accord been honored when it was SIGNED OFF by the int’l communities??”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER:
Yes, there was a peace accord signed at Lome, Togo, when the RUF forces were in control of most of the territory of Sierra Leone, and despite the horrendous atrocities that it had so recently committed, the RUF was able to negotiate a very sweet peace agreement in which its leader Foday Sankoh was made the effective vice president of Sierra Leone and put in charge of the mining industry that he had been trying to seize and exploit. The accord also included an amnesty barring prosecutions by Sierra Leone under its domestic law in its national courts of any individuals for crimes committed in the civil war before the date of the accord. The United Nations participated in that negotiation, and Secretary-General Kofi Annan added to end of the agreement a statement that the amnesty did not apply to crimes under international law. These include “crimes against humanity,” which are offenses committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilians, and “war crimes,” which are offenses against the Geneva Conventions or the Additional Protocols involving the intentional targeting of civilians during an armed conflict.
Of course, the Lome peace accord fell apart in 2000, when rebel forces killed four UN peacekeepers and abducted another 500, and Sankoh’s guards killed civilians who were demonstrating in Freetown against the abductions. The following month the President of Sierra Leone wrote to the United Nations and asked for the establishment of a court to try those responsible for atrocities committed during the civil war, and this led to the creation of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Once the Special Court was in operation and the Prosecutor issued indictments, the accused individuals filed motions asking that the cases be dismissed because of the Lome amnesty. The judges of our Appeals Chamber then held, very consistently with international law, that amnesties do not bar prosecutions for international humanitarian law by an international court such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone. All of our indictments have charged only such violations against leaders in Sierra Leone of the RUF, the AFRC, and the CDF, and against Charles Taylor.
Regarding Liberia, I have not seen any official document that the Liberian Legislature approved an amnesty for atrocities committed during its civil war. However, I have very recently heard that there may have been such a law considered just prior to Taylor going into exile in August 2003. But no one has found an original of such a statute or the act of the Liberian legislature, or of its approval by then President Taylor or his successor President Blah. But in any case, the act of a national legislature cannot bar a prosecution by an international court such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone for international crimes.
Harris K Johnson asked: “What is your stand as a prosecutor on HEARSAY and DECUMENTARY EDVIENCE ?”
Noko4 asked: “How come HEARSAY is the ONLY CREDITABLE evidence the prosecutors gave us during their showing given the amount of money been spend??? Do you truly believe one should be jail away for life on HEARSAY??”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER:
The rules of the Special Court, like all international courts, permit the judges to consider any probative evidence, including hearsay. This is appropriate because the trials are not conducted before juries but by learned judges who can decide the weight to be given each item of evidence. Usually direct evidence receives more weight, and we have presented direct evidence against Charles Taylor. But hearsay evidence can receive appropriate weight, and particularly when combined with other evidence can provide a very accurate picture of events.
For instance, it can include results of a thorough investigation by a reliable independent human rights observer who has received the information on the strict condition that identities will remain confidential. On other occasions, it may involve testimony from individuals who have spoken to someone who directly overheard a significant and memorable communication. Other times, it may include information imparted to a witness on a contemporaneous basis – for instance when a witness was standing next to someone who was on the line with the leader and got the relayed message, “attack that village.” There can be situations where a witness has heard reports from persons who say that they were buying arms at the direction of a leader, while others have testified that shortly thereafter groups supported by the leader were found to have arms of the kind that were being purchased. This can show a pattern that the judges can consider together with the totality of evidence.
Particularly when you are dealing with powerful leaders who pull the strings behind the scenes, it is important to be able to use this kind of evidence, provided that at the end of the day well-trained judges weigh it appropriately and find, combined with other evidence, that the prosecution has met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Andrew Jlay asked: “We have been given to understand that the original indictment for Mr. Taylor’s arrest was disclosed to the US Government, prior to it official unsealing. How true is this account and what was the rationale if the account is correct?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER:
I do not know if that was the case because it was prior to my arrival at the Special Court. If it were the case, that would be allowed by the rules of the Court which permit court officials to contact national authorities for assistance in the execution of arrest warrant. Those authorities may have intercepted communications about where an individual may be located or to where the individual may be traveling in the future. Indeed such contacts are absolutely essential because international courts do not have the power to arrest–it is only national authorities that have that power. When requested by court officials, these authorities make the arrest and then transfer the arrested individual to the custody of the court. So the arrest warrant may be sealed as to the public, and the accused, but it is not sealed as to authorities of the member states of the United Nations.
Sylvanus asked: “You have been reported in the media as saying that you are convinced that Charles Taylor will be convicted even when the trial is still on. Have you suddenly been promoted from being a prosecutor to the enviable position of a judge in this case? Do you think a truly professional and competent prosecutor should be making such public statements even when the trial is still pending?”
Helen asked: “Whay are you so sure that Taylor “will” be convicted? Are you allowed to prejudice this trial in such a manner or are you stateing what your superors have decided will be a foregone conclusion? Is this trial just a mockery?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER: All I can say is “beware of headlines.” I have never predicted that Taylor will be convicted. One or two headline writers may have put that headline above stories, but if you read the stories and saw my actual quotations, I said no such thing. What I have done is repeat what I said in my opening statement in court, summarized what witnesses have said in court, or quoted rulings by the judges.
I have explained the evidence that we have presented, and have described the submissions that we have made in court particularly on the motion to dismiss. I have quoted the conclusion of the judges that we have presented a sufficient case for conviction on all of the counts of the indictment, while noting that this decision was made at the end of prosecution case when the judges must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, and before the defense has presented its evidence. So one has to listen very carefully to comments made by prosecutors and defense attorneys to understand that we don’t jump to conclusions – we simply describe what we have done and what judges have said about what we have done.
Stay tuned for the next installment tomorrow!