Here is our final post in the three-part series of answers to your questions by Mr. Rapp. We’ll look forward to your comments and reactions to the issues Mr. Rapp raises.
Bnker asked: “would you be willing to prosecute presidents and former presidents of the US for war crimes as well?”
Aki asked: “You have now been appointed US Ambassador for War Crimes. My question is recently Chucky Taylor was sentenced to 97 years in prison by a United States court for torture carried out in Liberia. What are you going to do as Ambassador for war crimes to make sure that the C.I.A. operatives with the authority of the George W. Bush government who carried out torture against foreigners in Iraqi and Afghanistan are also brought to justice ? Further do you think it was selective justice for the Bush administration to allow the prosecution of Chuckie Taylor knowing that they sanctioned torture as a policy ?”
MR RAPP’S ANSWER: The Ambassador for war crimes isn’t a prosecutor, but let me just say something about the ICC generally: the International Criminal Court is a court of secondary jurisdiction – it was founded on the concept “complementarity,” which means that it leaves it to individual countries who have primary jurisdiction over the crimes to investigate alleged serious violations of international humanitarian law. It is only if the national system is unable or unwilling to investigate, and if appropriate, to prosecute, that the international court steps in to the situation and opens a case.
Regarding allegations that US personnel were involved in torture, these are now under investigation by a special prosecutor in the US Department of Justice. If the United States were a member of the ICC, that is the same thing that would be happening. The independent prosecutor is expected to follow the evidence where it leads. In America there is a tradition of effective prosecution without fear or favor. Powerful legislative leaders of both parties have been charged and convicted. An independent prosecutor took President Nixon to the US Supreme Court and obtained a unanimous ruling forcing the President to turn over taped conversations that led to his resignation to avoid impeachment from office. I think that we can comment that the new independent prosecutor and US judicial process will treat the present allegations appropriately.
Harris K Johnson asked: “Why did you used Monrovia not freetown as a venue for your farewell press confrence?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER: I had an opportunity to go to Monrovia during the period of August 16 to 19t and I had made a number of appointments there and took the opportunity to meet the press and answer questions. I believe that will be the last time I will be in Monrovia while Prosecutor for the Special Court but certainly during the last week of my tenure in the Special Court I will hold a similar press conference on 1 September in Freetown–the city where the court is based and the capital of the country in whose name we act and for whose victims we seek justice.
Timothy asked: “:Mr. Rapp, you have often lobbied in the media that the SCSL is running short of funding. Therefore:
1. Who are the primary funders of the SCSL and what percentage of costs do they fund?
2. Will this shortfall of funding prevent the completion of the Charles Taylor trial?
3. If funding should run out, what procedurally would occur?”
Mr. RAPP’S ANSWER: In terms of funding there have been about 50 countries that have contributed funds. Unlike the Yugoslavia or Rwanda tribunals, which receive mandatory UN dues, the Special Court for Sierra Leone relies on voluntary contributions. Every year it is necessary to convince countries to make contributions. The largest donor has been the United States, contributing a little more than one third of the court’s budget. The British government is second, and the Dutch government third, with each contributing about a sixth of the budget, and the Canadians about one-eighth. Large donations have been received from the German and Irish governments and from several Scandinavian countries. There have also been contributions from countries in Africa and Asia.
The court has recently been challenged with its cash flow, either because sufficient pledges had not been made or contributions were arriving late. But in August funding came from the Canadian, British and Irish governments. It is expected that in September funding will arrive from Germany and the US that will carry the court into 2010, to a date very close to the completion of testimony in the Taylor trial. Additional resources will be required to complete the argument and deliberation phases of the trial and the appeal that is anticipated. Efforts will be underway to make sure that those funds are available. In my new role as a US Ambassador at Large, I expect to work closely with Special Court officials and with other national donors on efforts to ensure adequate funding for an expeditious completion of the work of the court.
It is critical that the Special Court have the funding to complete the Taylor trial and possible appeal. Many may have seen a headline several months ago where I was quoted saying that Taylor could free if we ran out of funds. This resulted from my answering the question as to why as a prosecutor I spend so much time raising funds, to which I had responded, “I could have the best evidence in the world and the strongest advocates in court, but if we ran out of funds and we couldn’t finish trial, an accused could go free.”
From a practical standpoint, those of us in the prosecution would fight tooth and nail to prevent anyone from being released on the grounds that the court was out of funds. At the same time we would be doing everything we could to get the money in to cover the expenses. But certainly at the same time the defense would be trying to achieve provisional release for the accused, claiming the unfairness of jailing someone that the court did not have the present means to try. We don’t want to face that day which is one of the reasons as prosecutor I have spent so much effort to prevent that day from arriving, Thankfully we haven’t faced it, and I’m confident knowing the people in the court and knowing the commitment of the donor states that that day will never arrive, but will require constant work.
Zobon asked: “why no screening facility was establish for this trial in Liberia like what was done in Sierra Leone?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER: In Sierra Leone we have a court building where our trials take place, with security and television monitors, and people in Freetown can watch the proceedings from the gallery through the glass or look at the television monitors. People can even watch a video feed of the Taylor trial broadcast from The Hague into the courtroom gallery in Freetown.. We don’t have a facility like that in Monrovia, nor have we had the donations that would have allowed the court’s outreach section to secure and equip one.
It is also important to note that most people don’t have the time to sit and watch trials day after day after day. What they really want to hear is the important testimony and that’s why the approach that the outreach section has taken since the beginning of the Sierra Leone court has been to prepare videos and to take those videos out around the country and to provide for their screening. This often involves bringing a generator and fuel to run the projector and persons to answer questions, but outreach has done the same kind of thing in Liberia with the assistance of civil society. We have also encouraged the funding of organizations like the BBC World Service Trust to ensure that there are reporters from the region covering the Taylor trial in The Hague, who can prepare programs with actual testimony that can be broadcast by radio which is the medium which has the greatest penetration in Liberia and Sierra Leone. I have already mentioned the great information on the charlestaylortrial.org which is often reprinted in newspapers. The actual transcripts are available on the court website www.sc-sl.org, and I am pleased to see that some newspapers have also reprinted these in their daily editions. So a lot is being done to bring news of trial back to region, and we may have received almost as much local coverage as would have occurred if the trial had been in Freetown.
T-Bone asked: “Tejan Kabbah and Sani Abacha took that fatal decision to use military force . The nigerian troops bombarded populated areas with cluster bombs in violation of “ International“ Laws ; Nigerian troops gang raped women in towns ( Lunsar , Makeni and port Loko ) to name a few ; Nigerian troops looted everything ; Nigerian troops looted the diamond fields ; Nigerian troops summarily executed thousands of people . All this was done , in the name , and with the blessing of Kabbah .
The question now becomes :
why is Kabbah still a free man ?
Why is that no nigerian general has been arrested ?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER: If one looks at the Truth and Reconciliation report in Sierra Leone you’ll see an accounting of the incidents and the groups that might be responsible for those incidents and leading the list with thousands of violations is the RUF. Second is the AFRC, and third is the CDF. Down the list is the number of alleged violations by the Sierra Leone army prior to the coup of May 1997 and then further down the list are alleged violations of ECOMOG forces, followed by a group such as Executive Outcomes, that was employed by the government for a period of time for security reasons prior to the failed peace in Abidjan in November 1996.
The mandate of the court was to deal with the most significant crimes and with those bearing the greatest responsibility for those crimes, and certainly if you look at that report which was independently done, you will see that it was elements of those first three groups that were the greatest violators. We were criticized for prosecuting leaders of the CDF, but certainly as one sees the number of violations that occurred there, it was our responsibility to do so. If we had not done that, the question would have been “why only one side, when the other committed so many violations as well” In the end, CDF leaders were convicted, and those convictions were upheld. The crimes however weren’t as widespread as those committed by the leaders of the AFRC or RUF, and their sentences were shorter, but there were certainly responsible for widespread and systematic crimes. But we did not prosecute others whose crimes did not reach this level, and that it is a reason why the alleged offences that the questioner cites weren’t part of our indictments.
Helen asked: “Why was Mr Taylor the one person you Westerners picked on when obviously many other leaders had much more involvement with the RUF, and Comojors than he ever had? Are these leaders being protected because they are powerful or close allies of the powerful?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER: It was for his intentional involvement with the actual tactics used by the RUF, the campaign of terror against the civilian population, that caused him to be indicted. It began even before the temporal jurisdiction of the court when at the beginning of the war in Sierra Leone in March 1991, Taylor’s Liberians outnumbered the RUF by a factor of four to one, and they were initially committing worse atrocities in Sierra Leone than was the RUF. Taylor’s former Vice President Moses Blah has testified that Sankoh actually came to Taylor in Gbanga in 1991 and asked “why are you doing this?” and Taylor’s response was “war is not buttering bread” – basically saying, “Foday, get used to it.” According to our evidence he was directly involved in the way in which this conflict was fought. There may have been others who provided arms because they had an interest in one side or the other winning, but they weren’t deeply involved in the tactics used in the conflict and they didn’t have the long-running involvement that caused a human rights group to publish a report about the horrors in Sierra Leone or the region being ‘Taylor made.’ Simply put the evidence of his involvement was so great, indeed so exceptional for the leader of a neighboring country, and involved such horrendous atrocities that it cried out for international prosecution.
Harris K. Johnson asked: “Do you care to know where Mr. Taylor sold BLOOD DIAMONDS as alleged by you? If yes, what will you do about it?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER: What we have talked about is what we have presented in the case, that diamonds were delivered to Taylor and that he did use various intermediaries to get money from those diamonds and to obtain arms in exchange for them that were used in the conflict. That has been part of our evidence to date. Other things may be developed in the process of cross-examination. Our case involves proving his responsibility for the crimes in Sierra Leone and the question of where resources may have gone would be useful later on to determine where money might be obtained to provide compensation to victims. But that will only occur if he is convicted and after a conviction.