Charles Taylor this week made efforts to refute the evidence of key prosecution witnesses against him, including allegations that he made a pact with Sierra Leone’s rebel leader to help each other in their respective wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He also rebuffed as “lies” prosecution evidence that he ordered the execution of a key Sierra Leonean rebel commander or that he had a common plan with Sierra Leonean and Gambian rebel leaders to destabilize West Africa.
On Monday, Mr. Taylor told the Special Court for Sierra Leone that he did not did not have any pact with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels to help each other out with their respective wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“I had no pact with RUF leader Foday Sankoh for mutual assistance. That could not have been necessary,” Mr. Taylor said during his trial in The Hague.
Mr. Taylor asserted that if such mutual pact ever existed between himself and Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh, the prosecution would have led evidence to show the assistance that Mr. Sankoh rendered to Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
“There has been no evidence in this court about Sankoh being involved in the conflict in Liberia or commanding an NPFL post. There was no such thing because I did not know him at this time,” he said.
Mr. Taylor was responding to questions from his defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, about allegations that while in Libya in the late 1980s, Mr. Taylor entered into an agreement with Mr. Sankoh for the RUF rebels to assist the NPFL during its initial war efforts in Liberia in exchange for Mr. Taylor’s assistance to the RUF in attacking Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor denied that this was ever the case. The accused former president reiterated his earlier position that while he was in Libya, he did not know about the existence of the RUF and that he did not meet with Mr. Sankoh.
“I did not know about the creation of the RUF in 1989. I did not know Foday Sankoh. I only knew Alie Kabbah and the Sierra Leone Pan African Movement,” he said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Taylor said that he did not order or know about an infamous operation launched by rebel forces in Sierra Leone during its civil war aiming to ensure that anything that had life must be killed.
“I was not aware of ‘Operation No Living Thing’,” Mr. Taylor said.
During the presentation of the prosecution’s case, witnesses testified that Mr. Taylor worked in concert with RUF and Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) rebels to plan “Operation No Living Thing” against the Sierra Leonean population.
“I did not instruct anybody to launch such an operation. I had no control over anybody in Sierra Leone. There is no way that I would be in control or even acquiesce in any type of situation of this sort when throughout the revolution in Liberia we never had these kinds of atrocities, so this is impossible,” Mr. Taylor said.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Mr. Taylor focused on refuting the testimonies of key prosecution witnesses who testified that he had plans to destabilize West Africa and that he ordered the execution of RUF Commander Sam Bockarie for fear that Mr. Bockarie had too much knowledge of his involvement with the RUF — information which the witnesses said Mr. Taylor was determined to protect.
Between February 8 to 11 2008, the Prosecution’s eleventh witness, a Gambian named Suwandi Camara, testified that that Mr. Taylor, together with RUF leader Foday Sankoh, and a Gambian rebel leader named Dr. Manning, met in Burkina Faso and developed a common plan to destabilize West Africa. The witness also testified that Mr. Taylor recruited and armed children under the age of 15 years. (Mr. Camara was a linkage witness who said he was trained alongside Mr. Taylor in Libya and later became part of Mr. Taylor’s Special Security Service (SSS)).
In his testimony on Wednesday, Mr. Taylor denied ever knowing the Suwandi Camara and dismissed as “lies” the witness’ claims that Mr. Taylor had plans to destabilize West Africa.
“There was no such thing like this that occurred,” Mr. Taylor said.
Asked by Mr. Griffiths whether he did “coordinate such a movement with Dr. Manning and Foday Sankoh,” Mr. Taylor said no. He elaborated that ”there was not one Sierra Leonean, not one Sierra Leonean in Burkina Faso. The only people that were in Burkina Faso were the Gambians and Dr. Manning had come to Burkina Faso not along with the Liberian group.”
In his testimony in February, Witness Camara claimed that he was a training instructor for the NPFL at the Gbartala training base in Liberia and that under his command, the NPFL recruited and trained young children who were under the age of 15 years. Mr. Taylor told the judges that “that was a blatant lie and there will be witnesses to prove that it is a lie.”
Explaining the role that children played in NPFL territory, Mr. Taylor said “people that were under the age of 18 were not trained as military personnel in the NPFL. They were family members associated with soldiers that helped to take care of them in their home, cooking for them, but they were not recruits of the NPFL. They did not have any command structure. If you have a bigger brother, you follow him, you were with him, but there was no fixed command structure of any group calling themselves SBU[Small Boys Unit].”
The prosecution has alleged that Mr. Taylor maintained a relationship with RUF rebels throughout the conflicts in both Sierra Leone and Liberia. Together with the RUF’s leader, Foday Sankoh, Mr. Taylor allegedly developed a common plan to wage war against the people and government of Sierra Leone. Prosecution witnesses have testified to the pattern of operations in Mr. Taylor’s NPFL such as the use of child soldiers called SBUs, and have related the same patterns in the RUF where the child combatants were also called SBUs. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.
On Thursday, Mr. Taylor said he did not order the the assassination of one of Sierra Leone’s top rebel commanders during the country’s civil war, and dismissed as “lies” allegations that he knew that Sierra Leonean rebels were recruiting fighters in Liberia in areas controlled by Mr. Taylor’s own fighting force.
Mr. Taylor was responding to the testimony of the 37th Prosecution Witness, an RUF insider and mining commander who testified under protective measures, using the pseudonym TFI-367. In his testimony from August 20 to September 1 2008, Witness TFI-367 explained that a relative of Sam Bockarie’s wife had told him that Mr. Taylor ordered the assassination of the RUF commander and his entire family because Mr. Taylor was concerned that Mr. Bockarie knew too much about his involvement with the RUF. In order to protect such information, Mr. Bockarie and his entire family had to be killed.
In his response on Thursday, Mr. Taylor said that “it is the silliest thing that I have heard. What will Bockarie have to say about me? That I was giving arms to RUF? If this is true, he would have said so to Foday Sankoh when he returned from custody in 1999.”
“What is there to hide that he would not have told his boss, that I will have to kill him for many years later?” Mr. Taylor asked.
“I did not order the killing of Sam Bockarie,” he maintained.
Several prosecution witnesses have testified that when RUF leader Foday Sankoh was detained in Nigeria in 1997, he gave orders to Sam Bockarie that all diamonds mined on behalf of the RUF were to be handed over to Mr. Taylor for safe keeping. Witnesses also said that Mr. Sankoh told RUF commanders to take all orders from Mr. Taylor.
In his testimony, Mr. Taylor questioned why Mr. Bockarie had not mentioned anything in his report to Mr. Sankoh about diamonds given to, or orders received from, Mr. Taylor after Mr. Sankoh’s release in 1999.
“Except they were ungrateful people but he [Bockarie] would have told Sankoh. As a good commander on the ground, he is supposed to give a full report to his boss,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor also refuted Witness TF1-367’s testimony that RUF leader Foday Sankoh was recruiting fighters for the RUF in NPFL controlled territories in Liberia and that Mr. Sankoh was making public pronouncements in Liberia about Mr. Taylor’s support to the RUF. The witness claimed that he was personally recruited by Mr. Sankoh in Liberia and that he was trained alongside other RUF commanders like Issa Sesay and Morris Kallon at Camp Nama in Liberia. Mr. Taylor dismissed the witness’ claims as lies.
“I have no knowledge of Sankoh’s recruitment in Liberia. I was not even aware that Sankoh was in Liberia, not to talk about recruiting there. There is no way Sankoh would have been in Liberia in 1990 and speaking my name publicly there. I did not know that there was a Foday Sankoh training Sierra Leoneans at Camp Nama and planning to invade Sierra Leone,” he said.
Witness TFI-367 had also testified that Mr. Taylor supplied the RUF with arms and ammunition, food and medical supplies. In his testimony on Thursday, Mr. Taylor vehemently denied this allegation, saying that “I Charles Ghankay Taylor never authorized any food or weapons or whatever say, take this to Foday Sankoh for his men, never did.”
Also in his testimony on Thursday, Mr. Taylor made efforts to refute the testimony of the 42nd Prosecution Witness, Stephen Smith, an American professor who worked as a journalist in West Africa and has written extensively about issues in the region.
In his testimony on September 22 and 23 2008, Mr. Smith testified that the conflict in Sierra Leone was fuelled by the conflict in Liberia and that the same faces could be identified in Mr. Taylor’s NPFL and Mr. Sankoh’s RUF. “It felt like a regional war that was spreading out like a regional cancer,” Mr. Smith said in his testimony in 2008.
Dismissing Mr. Smith’s claims that the war was like a regional war, Mr. Taylor told the judges that “I don’t accept that at all. If we say so, then it should have gone to Guinea or Ivory Coast. Why didn’t the war in Mozambique spur conflicts in other countries?”
Mr. Taylor also dismissed Mr. Smith’s assertions that RUF leader Foday Sankoh lived in Monrovia in 1990 before invading Sierra Leone in 1991.
“Foday Sankoh is in Monrovia before he goes to Sierra Leone. What does that say? Its total nonsense,” he said.
Mr. Taylor said that his NPFL rebels never totally controlled Monrovia throughout the Liberian civil war and it would therefore not have been possible for him to host the RUF leader in Monrovia in 1990.
Mr. Taylor is responding to allegations that he provided support for RUF rebels in Sierra Leone through the supply of arms and ammunition in return for diamonds. The prosecution also alleges that Mr. Taylor gave direct orders to RUF commanders and that through his acts or omissions, he bears responsibility for the crimes committed by RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied all these allegations. He is presently testifying as a witness in his own defense at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony resumes again on Monday.
What is the feedback on the streets of Sierra Leone from those who following the trial??? And what is your take so from a journalistic view????
Unfortunately, since the commencement of the defense case (with Mr. Taylor’s testimony), i have not been to Sierra Leone. This, of course makes it difficult for me to say with certainty what the feedback from people in the streets of Freetown is. I know for sure that Sierra Leoneans, like Liberians have been very interested in the trial, especially Mr. Taylor’s testimony.
Having spoken with media practioners and Special Court personnel in Sierra Leone, my understanding is that more journalists and civil society members have been going to the Special Court premisses to witness/monitor the trial, where it is shown via live stream in one of the court rooms. I know that Sierra Leonean newspapers have been giving daily coverage to the trial as it proceeds.
I have also read news reports of interviews conducted with civil society members in Sierra Leone who have been very excited to hear Mr. Taylor give his own side of this entire episode.
On the whole, i can say that Sierra Leoneans are following the trial with keen interest but i cannot give specifics of what people in the streets of Sierra Leone have had to say as i am not in Sierra Leone right now.
As to what my take on the trial is from a journalistic view, unfortunately, i am not a journalist ( a profession i admire and respect very much). I work on this project as a trained lawyer and trial monitor. So from that point of view, i’ll say that while the trial itself has had its own challenges, the court has made steady progress when one considers the complex nature of this case. One of the things that has been of paramount importance to me is the issue of the fair trial rights of the accused. I know that whatever the outcome of the case is, if there are question marks on the fair trial rights of the accused, the credibility of the whole process will be significantly dented. On this, no significant problems hinging on Mr. Taylor’s rights as an accused person have been identified. That is not to say there have not been any challenges but when they have come up, the court has been swift to address them. We must commend Mr. Taylor’s defense team for constantly keeping the judges and the Registrar’s office alert on things that could affect him. We all saw how robust they were in reversing the extra security measures that were imposed on all accused persons in The Hague. We also saw how Mr. Taylor’s concerns for the kind of food he should eat were addressed. In the court room, things have been smooth to a very large extent. Mr. Taylor himself has been very cooperative with the court, something that the judges themselves have commended him for. I know that you have raised concerns about the nature of the evidence led by the prosecution and how that relates to the trial being fair. Other readers on this forum might hold alternative views on this subject. The nature of the evidence led by the prosecution will be used by the judges to determine whether they have discharged the burden of proof to warrant a conviction for Mr. Taylor or otherwise. As long as while presenting their evidence, they had due regard for procedure such as disclosing to the defense the nature of every evidence before using it in court, those will not touch directly on Mr. Taylor’s fair trial rights. It will be for the judges to determine the weight of the evidence. Now, the defense has the same opportunity to present a case for Mr. Taylor and so far, we can all agree that things have been pretty smooth.
If you have any specific fair trial right issues that you have identified, feel free to raise them so we can discuss them together. I hope my explanation here is clear and helpful enough to you and the other readers. Let me know if you have further questions.
Thanks for your answer and keep up the good work.
Thanks Alp….I thought you were in Sierra Leone.
‘What’s up with this child soldier thing that they are talking about? I don’t get it. In America, children under the age of 18 years old are recruited into the world’s most powerful military daily. Normally, it is under parental consent or some arrangement. In fact, the military even allows people with criminal or potentially criminal records to join. However, if you talk to a US military recruiter, he/she will tell you that your criminal record can be esponged if you have one, and if you are willing to join the military. This is normal gentleman. Liberia is not as sophisticated like the US and yet you are blaming President Taylor for recruiting child soldier who are just following their seniors? You Westerners are only disgracing and exposing the US more and not an ordinary man like Charles Taylor who may be gone tomorrow and the world will still be standing strong.
The commentary section should change its title to the “NPFL propeganda gallery.” Seriously I am not sure if you people are watching the same trial. The 31 “insiders” are largely corroborative and from so many diferent vantage points. If you look at other trials like at the Yugoslavia tribunal rarely have the cases been this strong. Especially the radio operators! Noko keeps talking about “hearsays”…what do you even mean? The evdience has been a mix from direct observation to some accounting of conversations of course…all permissable evidence in int’l tribunals. And now you just believe carte blanche that the whole time he had a “peace” agenda for Sierra Leone? Give me a break. And the carping about it being African leader….well hopefully some day Cheney will get his. But guess what….all of those victims..they were African also. And it would be the height of racism to say they dont deserve justice because they are African…something you all seem to think. Some of the comments on here have been boredrline offensive to my country, Sierra Leone. We sufferred a lot and while justice may take a long time and not be perfect (would have been good to see a diamond dealer indicted….as well as Blaise Compaore) at least there will be some accountability.
According to you, you’ve been watching this trial, so can you please point out in this case in this court where evidences are given as FACTS from the prosecutors side A FACTUAL FACT?? A FACT(document) that shows Mr. Taylor instructed, ordered, gave, demanded or what so ever in relationship to the MANDATE of this court??? Let me remind you on the MANDATE….anyone with SERIOUS VIOLATION since Nov. ’99.
On the other side Bundu, Mr. Taylor has shown us amples amount of DOCUMENTS to back up his words…..some of those documents are even backed up by prosecutors witnesses….the ones he said about his relationship with RUF.
We were told Mr. Taylor was hosting RUF in guest houses in Liberia….yes but was that the FACTUAL FACT to that story??? No!!! Did the prosecutors know this, HELL YES, but did they present the FACTUAL FACT into evidence??? NO!!! WHY???
Yes HEARSAYS is all I saw from the prosecutors….this was what a witness told this court pertaining to Sam’s family….someone told someone and that someone told someone and that someone told him and that’s the EVIDENCE we judge a man’s innocence????
Did you see the sessions on the RUF STATUS REPORT and RUF MANIFESTO?? Nowhere did we see or saw Mr. Taylor been a point man or godfather….so tell me where is the NPFL PROGANDA???? I was not in Sierra Leone or Liberia, neither are those judges, therefore the ONLY thangs plus the judges got to go on to judge this case Bundu are the evidences presented…..or are there other showings??
I don’t know anyone in here who was part of NPFL so let’s be careful with the labeling; Most in here just see INJUSTICE and nothing more. I respect your view so do the same for mine….FAIR?? Do you recalled what the last witness for the prosecutor told this court?? His amputations were done by the Sierra Leone army and who was the Commander In Chief……Pres. Kabbah and he’s NOT on trail…..and we are seeking JUSTICE….right??
In case you are dreaming, he is trial due to HEARSAY link….someone told someone that RUF and Mr. Taylor signed a PACT….up to today’s date, NO ONE has produced said document; not even the STATUE REPORT nor the MANIFESTO told such……..JUSTICE?? Not in my view.
Be frank with yourself. Sierra Leoneans maimed and killed other Sierra Leoneans for their own reasons. What would Taylor achieve in ordering murder in Sierra Leone when he is already president in Liberia?
You seem to be blaming everybody except the Sierra Leonenians themselves. As I have said in the past Sierra Leonenians only have to look in the mirror to see who is responsible for the mayhem in that country. Having said that before you brand me a bigot. Let me inform you that I am of both Sierra leonenian and Liberian decent.
John palm-oli wasted on John Rice! sorry, sometimes I can’t stomach how brutal Sierra Leonean were to one another although we also experienced the same in Liberia as-well on a fairly limited level. Because of Charles Taylor invasion into Liberia, I lost two older brothers, one of which was killed by the NPFL in 1990 because his accuser said he looks like Samuel Doe. Up to now, my father still despises Taylor; however, as a frequent reader of this great blog and a consistent viewer of the trial from the beginning, I’ve concluded Taylor was wrongly accused. I was in Liberia for all the wars and have a first hand knowledge of all the activities before and now.
Why couldn’t the prosecutor show and lowest level of documented evidence, something to look at and argue about? Nothing, Not-la, fear-co. Why ?????? I m yet to see trace of the $$$$$$$$$
I’m a Sierra leonean too,and according to the evidence presented by the prosecution,it is clear some sort of political trial is going on here,an example of the illogic nature of this trial, is when a prosecution witness claimed that a relative of Sam Bockarie told him that Charles Taylor ordered the killing of Bockarie because he knew too much about the pact between Taylor and Sankoh,from what source did a relative of Bockarie get this information!!!!!,i must also state that even if some of the commentators on this panel are charles taylor sympathisers,they are putting forward a very logical critisism of the prosecution case….Bundu the west blocked African leaders in every direction and if they failed to comform to their wish,big trouble” their country will be destabilised either by sanction or they will organise civil conflict as you may aware there is not a shortage of African that are willing to collaborate with the west to destabilised their country,Maybe Tim Spicer should be on trial for crimes involving aiding and abeiting or part of a joint enterprise in Sierra leone…to be honest as a Sierra leoanean it hard to imagine a sierra leonean taking orders from any other african country as to what to do in sierra leone….maybe however shameful from a westerner.
Thanks for your input. Who is Tom Spicer??? First time hearing such name.
Bundu, we agree that your country Sierra Leone suffered a lot. But we also know that Liberia suffered equally. Do you remember the 1985 Thomas Quiwonkpa invasion on Liberia? Your country Sierra Leone opened its border fro our people in Liberia to be murdered. Are you also aware of ULIMO, your country again was a launching pad. Do you remembered LURD, there were a lot of your countryman. So Bendu, don’t just look at Liberia. You talked about Blais of Bokina-faso, why don’t you consider your own former president Kabbah who some of your brothers and sisters had said his army and the CDF formed chopped off their hands and legs. Bundu, Taylor is the wrong guy.
Tracey, are you listening to Bundu and others accusation about this website? some are even suggesting the commmentary section be changed to the “NPFL Propaganda Gallery.”
Tracey, this is what got President Taylor where he is today. Lies and deceit. These people inability to articulate or convince the people, led to this fake case.
I am listening to Bundu and I welcome his/her comments. This website aims to promote diversity of opinion and the debate it should rightly generate. I understand, Jose, that you may not agree with Bundu, but s/he is making valid points which merit intellectual engagement and consideration. You might also feel similarly to Bundu, and perhaps even feel disillusioned with the commentary section, if you thought that many of the comments on this website did not reflect or engage seriously with your point of view and its merits.
I would therefore encourage you and other readers to take this as an opportunity to reflect on what we hope to achieve out of the discussion on this site. My hope is that we read each others’ comments and engage with the substance of those comments with an open mind, and with a view to developing a better understanding of where each other is coming from, as well as the merits of the arguments on all different sides of the debate generated by this trial.
Jose, you made an important point by acknowledging the suffering that both Sierra Leoneans and Liberians experienced during their respective conflicts. Here, I actually think you have a point of agreement with Bundu, who recognized all the victims in both conflicts were African and deserving of justice. Meanwhile Noko4, in response to Bundu, similarly notes that we are all seeking justice. Perhaps a point of departure for debate might be generated from this point of agreement – that is: to the extent we agree that seeking justice for the victims who suffered in the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia, what should that mean in practice? Have we seen it? Is it still to come? What form might it take – prosecutions, the truth and reconciliation commissions, reparations, another process not yet tried, or being tried but not widely known about? What role should ex-combatants play in such processes? To the extent that such justice processes are still to come, what would need to happen to make them a reality?
I definitely think Jose is right; the fact of the matter that Bundu can come up to accuse this site that has come up to air the views of peace loving people of being pro NPFL, in my view has the propounsity to destroy the momentum at which liberians, sierraleones and the world at large are ingaged in this deliberation. People should stop making blanket statements about other people. That is kind of unprofessional in any form of intellectual discourse as the one we are. The issue here is about lies that have been brought against about our presendent, mr. Taylor. For me, I really don’t care what some of these hidden prosecution witnesses got to say. The fact is the fact; STEPHEN RAPP lied on mr. taylor, The people of sierraleone and liberia need to know; If BUNDU thinks, he / she got some proofs against the accused , please take it to the hague. This is not NPFL web site. We like to see justice b do to some body’s father, friend, leader, love one. BRAVO GHANKAY
You’re factually too hard on brother Bundu, next time please keep some facts hidden like the prosecutors are doing.
Roger that, Via Gbana.
I do not know your history but the way you sound makes me feel that you are a direct victim of the unfortunate war in Sierra Leone. There is no doubt that innocent people suffered during the Sierra leonean civil war and that acts amounting to crimes against humanity were committed.
However, I think that for there to be true reconcilliation in Sierra Leone, Sierra Leoneans need to take responsibility for whatever happend during the war and stop blaming foreigners.They should take their destiny in their own hands and stop allowing the west to think for them. For God’s sake who armed the SLA? ANSWER: Britain. Who armed the Camajors? ANSWER: Britain/USA./ECOWAS. Who Constitute a majority of these armed groups? ANSWER: Sierra Leoneans. Did these armed groups commit attrocities in Sieera leone? ANSWER:Yes.
Until Sierra Leoneans take responsibility for the mindless destruction of their own country, there will never be real peace and reconcilliation in Sierra leone.
You made a very salient point. Sometimes myself wonder whether Noko4, Jose and the other guys are really doing what they’ve been doing for some personal benefits. I am saying this because they really sometimes remind me of the very strong strong and inobjective propaganda machinery Taylor had in place while carrying on his wars.
Even if they want to accuse the West of prosecuting Taylor because he is an African, what form of justice will they want for they rest of the Africans that were killed as a result of these wars? Gentlemen lets please encourage justice for our own peolpe while we anticipate same for people of other races.
I hope you are not in anyway associated with Foday Sanko(lo). Nobody is advocating impunity here but for God’s sake the right people should be prosecuted for the right crimes. Just a reminder. Charles Taylor is not on trial for atrocities committed in Liberia but rather for attrocities in Sierra Leone. If he is been tried for crime committed in Liberia then he is guilty but nthat is not the case in this instance.
Even Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf cannot in good faith prosecute Charles Taylor for crimes commited in Liberia to which she was an active partner. The fact is All the Factions in the conflict in Liberia/Sierra Leone were guilty of one crime or the other. there is no need for selective punishment here. what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
I am NOT a relative of Mr. Taylor but a person watching this trial; and from the little I know from watching COURT TV, this case wouldn’t have made it thru the doors of any US Courts!!!
Did you watch the hearing today??? HOw can the prosecutors put a witness on the stand who is even contradicting the UN REPORT as to who were present in Lome and their roles?? Doesn’t spell trouble for them??? This witness claimed he was part of RUF party to the Lome talk but his name is NO WHERE mentioned in the UN RELEASE but Mr. Bah is. He testified that Mr. Bah was just an onlooker….who are we to believe here??? This witness or the UN RELEASE??
Now if I point out means I am SHOUTING GLORY BE TO MR. TAYLOR??? Let’s look at the evidences presented and judge okay.
I would like to support the comments made by Jose and Noko4 in response to Bundu. I fully agree with all that they said and would like to add my observations regarding the comments that were made that this site should be an NPFL propaganda gallery and am suprised that you have no issue with this assertion. I am aware that this is a medium by which divergent views are to be voiced and are being voiced; however I note that this is a direct allegation or insinuation directed at this site; meaning you the hosts. I would think that you would see it appropriate to at least even clarify the fact that the commentaries are not towing any particular line but summarizing the issues of the day. In any event If you think it is ok for individuals to make direct accusations about this site, then that is fine. I however believe that this comment does not go to the issue of debating but to directly questioning the credibility of neutrality of this site.
That said i would like to address your questions raised as to the issue of seeking justice for the victims of Liberia and Sierra Leone and whether we have seen it or not. First of all I will say that this whole concept of justice in the way it is persued is a very western approach and the entire process has been flawed from the onset. It did not start from a premise of addressing the issue of the true perpetrtors of the crimes in the first place. It was all ochestrated with an agenda to get Taylor. Had the initial intentiation been about true justice we would have seen a lot of other big hands sitting in the dock answering questions including the ambassadors of the UK, heads of ECOMOG, Tejan Kabbah, Lansana Conteh, Executive Outcome and a score of others for Sierra Leone, and the Presidents of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ecomog the US President, Ambassadors and senior CIA and state department officials, members of SAS forces who bombed Liberia in 1993, heads of all warring factions including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for Liberia and Heads of ECOMOG amongst others for Liberia.
As we know this is not going to happen then we should stop talking about justice because this does not exist in this case as the real peoplewho should be answering question are never ever going to be called to account because of who they are and the power they weild. This is not the way to bring justice when all the blame is put on one individual all because he is disliked by the big powerful western governments.
This whole case and the idea that it is in the interest of justice leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. No one is saying that the process may not have been necessary; what I am saying is that it should have been based on facts and not conjecture, assumptions and fabrications. There are enough facts that implicate many other very powerful governments and groups but we never hear them even criticized and they will obviously never be call to account. So what is justice after all, one set of rules for one person and another set of rules for the rich and powerful? I dare to say that this is disappointing.
I note that you are very concern as to what is to come in terms of justice for Sierra Leone and Liberia and what form it is to take. Quite honestly this whole process in my opinion and I am sure if you ask those who have been the victimization will say has been futile. Those amputees will much have preferred the money spent on this case being given to them to help improve their lives than to have this charade of a trial that is so far removed from their suffering. The victims would have benefitted from programes of rehabilation and of tantament economic benefits to them and their families and communities rather than some show trial held in a western court only to satisfy western guilt.
When some of the worst atrocities were committed in South Africa by the apathied regime, no one said anything about war crimes tribunals. They were quick to negotiate fro a TRC. We can see how this process helped to mend the wounds in that part of continent. So what is this war crimes tribunal thing when the actual perpetrators combatants are back in the communities and to a large extent have been accepted by their communities? It is an African thing to ask for forgiveness and be forgiven by your community. We do not go around punishing people in the form of tribunals ets. This is a purely western concept again being forced down our throat to satisfy the western conscience.
Now before someone say that I am encouraging impunity, that is not the case I am saying rather that if indeed we wanted to punish those responsible for the crimes and dispense true justice then we should have ensured that all of those who had any part to play in the proces be brought to account. I am totally against this whole selective justice that has taken place here. There is for instance Kabbah who did exactly the same thing that Taylor is being accused of but Stephen Rapp says there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that he was guilty of those crimes; and yet they grabbed his leutenant Norman who was only following his orders. Come on now, where is the justice in that?
I believe this whole concept of African justice should be left to Africans to handle and let the west leave us to handle our African problems in our African way. They have no intrinsic understanding of our cultural perspectives so should not be the ones dispensing socalled justice especially when historically they have been the ones who carried out some of the most heinous crimes against Africans.
So where is an African tio take say an American president or a British Prime Minister who is responsible for atrocities in an African country? Is there such a forum? DEFINITELY NO!!! Well then let’s re-examine this whole process.
I believe that this process as is is going to only further serve as a destabilizing froce in Africa and by no means will lead to any form of societal cohesion or peace. I revert to you.
Thank you, as always, for your comments. Unfortunately I have to leave now and will be largely away from my computer for much of the coming hours, but I do look forward to engaging with you on the issues you raise above. You raise some significant points that would be important to discuss. I will be back in touch with a proper response to your comprehensive comment later today.
Hi again Helen,
Perhaps I am incorrectly reading Bundu’s comment, but I assumed Bundu was not referring to the neutrality of the daily posts produced by Alpha, which are aiming to reflect the events in court each day and include contextual background to the day’s testimony (eg the charges against Mr. Taylor and the evidence by witnesses to which he is responding during his testimony). If Bundu was refering to our daily summaries, both Alpha and I would most definitely want to hear more from Bundu as to why s/he thinks they are propaganda or not living up to our ideals of monitoring the trial in a way that is balanced, neutral and concerned to ensure that the trial of Mr. Taylor is fair. It is important to us to know if people who are reading the site think we are unfairly biased in one direction or another in our reporting or analysis of the trial events, and why they think that. Similarly, with the commentary pieces I write occasionally, I try to base the analysis in law or the legal (or other) issues that are raised by the trial. If there were problems with these pieces in terms of a perception of bias for or against Mr. Taylor, I would value understanding what the concerns are to be able to discuss and address them.
I had assumed that Bundu was instead referring to comments made by other readers on the site. While not getting into the debate of whether it was fair or not to suggest giving this section the label of an “NPFL propaganda gallery,” what I will say is that the section at the end of each official post is devoted to readers comments, and it is intended to be the place where people express a diversity of opinions about the trial and the issues it raises. As a site, we cannot control who is posting on the site or the content of their posts — nor would we want to. The only restrictions we have – apologies for sounding like a broken record! — is for the commenters to focus on the issues and not personally on each other in their criticisms and analysis, and to adhere to our terms and conditions of use of the site (which readers can find by clicking on the tab at the bottom right hand side of the home page). We hope that people with a variety of differing opinions and perspectives on the trial will comment in these sections — it keeps the debates lively and interesting for all of us.
Meanwhile in reference to the remainder of your post, I value your thoughts on the questions I raised yesterday. It is full of ideas that are worthy of greater discussion and debate.
A few questions arise for me from your comment, where I would be particularly interested in yours and others’ thoughts. Here is the first: in international criminal tribunals (in fact in national court systems too), prosecutors are meant to be independent. They are supposed to investigate and follow the evidence where it leads, and then indict individuals based on that evidence. Part of their mandate is not to take instructions from governments, western or otherwise — we can see that in the Special Court for Sierra Leone Statute under Article 15, which states “The Prosecutor shall act independently as a separate organ of the Special Court. He or she shall not seek or receive instructions from any Government or from any other source.” You say in your comment: “This is not the way to bring justice when all the blame is put on one individual all because he is disliked by the big powerful western governments.” Do you think that the SCSL prosecutor was acting contrary to his mandate when he indicted Mr. Taylor? If so, why?
My second question is raised by your comment: “We do not go around punishing people in the form of tribunals ets. This is a purely western concept again being forced down our throat to satisfy the western conscience.” I would be interested to know more about your thoughts and those of others — particularly in relation to other comments we have seen on this site in the past few months by people who identify themselves as Liberian and who say they would like to see a special court for war crimes to be set up in Liberia to address the crimes committed during the Liberian war. Can you or others help us better understand these competing views that have emerged on the site?
On the issue of selectivity of justice — it is an interesting one, and one which the global community as a whole needs to address in a meaningful way. I had written a little commentary piece on this exact issue a little while ago to spark further discussions on the issue — the piece, along with the comments in response, is here if you are interested: http://www.charlestaylortrial.org/2009/08/07/it%e2%80%99s-all-about-you-too/.
On the victims issue that you raise — I agree this is one of the most challenging aspects of international criminal trials: specifically, how can international justice be as meaningful as possible to the victims that suffered during the conflict? You note with respect to Sierra Leone: “Those amputees will much have preferred the money spent on this case being given to them to help improve their lives than to have this charade of a trial that is so far removed from their suffering. The victims would have benefitted from programes of rehabilation and of tantament economic benefits to them and their families and communities rather than some show trial held in a western court only to satisfy western guilt.” I completely understand your point, Helen — I have spoken with amputees in Sierra Leone who raise similar concerns – they have told me that while they appreciate the work of the Special Court and the efforts of the court officials to speak with them and keep them up-to-date with the court’s work, they also wish the Special Court could have done more to improve their material circumstances (which, by the way, were by any standards devastating). I did not get the sense, though, that the people I spoke to would have preferred the trials not to happen at all — that said, I recognize my discussions were with a limited number of people who suffered from amputations during the war, and I am sure there is a wide variety of views that people have on this issue. But what my discussions did raise for me is the sheer enormity of reconstruction needs in post-war situations like Sierra Leone and Liberia, both in terms of justice and improvements in peoples’ everyday lives. My hope is that one day, we will see a devotion of sufficient donor resources to rebuilding post-conflict communities which ensures that issues of justice and rehabilitation for victims do not have to sit in tension due to the scarcity of resources. That we often see the two goals as sitting in tension perhaps speaks both to the enormity of the task of rebuilding societies after war, and the limitation on the role that justice processes alone can play in fully rebuilding people’s shattered lives, particularly when there were so many thousands of victims in countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia.
On a related note: one interesting tidbit that I only found out a little while ago: for major donor countries who fund tribunals like the Special Court for Sierra Leone — the funding they give to the Special Court often comes from an entirely different pot from the money they would spend on development efforts (schools, hopitals etc) in Sierra Leone. So if the money was not spent on the SCSL, it may instead go to other justice efforts elsewhere in the world. It would not necessarily go back to the development funds for Sierra Leone. So in that way, the Special Court is not taking money away from a development budget of donors for Sierra Leone, but adding a process which would not have happened otherwise. For me, it shed a new light on how to think about these courts and their place in reconstructing societies. I’d be interested in yours and other thoughts on this too.
Helen – you raised so many good issues, but I will stop here for the time being. Looking forward to hearing from you and others.
What Noko4, Jose and the other guys being doing that you know about prior to this website? For the benefit of this audience, we want to know. Why especially you, think that someone can not do anything or say anything without someone influencing and telling them what to do or say? This was the same lie carried around that President Taylor was voted purely on fear. We counter that assertion that there were other former warlords who participated in the election. The question than, why were they not voted for? Did the Liberian people out of fear refused to vote for them also? If Taylor was a freeman, you would have said, it is President Taylor telling us what to say or behind and sponsoring this website.
Sankolo, to ease your wonders, I’m doing it for personal benefit. I want a country and continent attainable within my time free from Western dominance and interference. I want my children’s children to enjoy their God given resources without someone cheating them. I don’t want Liberia to be a protectorate of the UN.
As you follow this trial as you’re saying, you should know by now that the prosecution of Charles Taylor for what happened in Sierra Leone is no where near the true and that the evidences presented in this case doesn’t support the prosecution claim. For example: one of the prosecution main witnesses stated that when Gbanga fell in 1994, Mr. Taylor order reinforcement from RUF in Sierra Leone with ULIMO in control of the western border with Sierra Leone up to the Guinean border in the north. Do you really think that that witness is saying the true? I am a military man and I know Liberia very well… there’s no way what so ever that could have been possible. It could have taken a year for RUF to fight through ULIMO control area to get to Gbanga. 2.
He also stated that Sankoh was making public statements in Monrovia in 1990 for recruitment activities. Charles Taylor never completely control Monrovia in 1990, how could it has been for Sankoh to make such statements in Monrovia without him getting killed by AFL? The hands and legs of people were chopp off by RUF in sierra Leone where as this didn’t happen in Liberia and still the prosecution want you to believe that Mr. Taylor order those things to have in Sierra Leone why didn’t he do the same in Liberia since he was the leader of the NPFL?
About the issue of Bockarie death, I have come to realize that Mr. Taylor didn’t order the Killing of him…. I got this information first hand, that is, from some of those who were there when Bockarie got killed and in fact was part of the group that got in the fire fight with him that day. They are willing and ready to testify once they are call upon! This case is an interesting one. The person who actually killed Bockarie is willing to testify and I believe he will but it’s just a matter of time.
Sankolo,What’s the purpose of this site?
Just make your point and forget about how people think and feel. you sound like one of us that didnt believe Charles Taylor when he said that Lurd was attacking his government forces in Lofa county right after his inauguration as president of Liberia. We said he was making up stories.We later felt the heat when the war became war war 1,2 and 3.
So you really want this man to plead guilty when he have evidence to defend himself against hearsay and they say? Or you want us to keep quiet not to speak up like dummies? Our eyes r open my man.
Sankolo, San-ko-lo my man,
For real, are you for real? PROPAANDA MACHINERY. Stop trying to make this a Sierra Leonean/ Liberian thing.
Are you saying the people that follow the so call order given by Mr Taylor are not guilty? or they were just stupid?
Nobody will come into my home and tell me cut off ur brother, sister or friend hands or legs and I do it. The ignorance of the law, is off know excuse. We will cry out for justice, when one is being LIE ON. Mr Taylor is the cause of the war in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and God knows where ease. Who do thing cares about the African? if we as African have no regards for each other? do you think Mr Taylor prosecution is in the interest of Africa(African)?
Be not fool, you and bundu are not more Sierra Leonean then we are Liberian. We should have respect for each other even if we disagreed.
Sierra Leonean are (should be) responsible for what when on in Sierra Leone, as Liberian, will be responsible for Liberia. You people need to stop looking for skip goat, and “BE RESPONSIBLE”
Guys you are acting silly here again! Why are you low class thinkers and supporters of taylor all over Bundu for expressing his views about the people of Sierra Leone? Is it not about Sierra Leone we are talking?
Once again, I will redirect you ex-fighters to chill your cool and respect others views and stop jumping all over as if your views are the only important views..rubbish! You guys think that shouting on this site will win taylors clemency..wrong again..your man will bear the full weight of the law and some of you will follow because you all seem to have participated in these crimes otherwise you would not be this insensitive and arguing irrationally each time and keep repeating yourselves which indicates lack of knowledge of what you want to express! Can we, for one moment, stop this rude lose talk? We are tired of hearing about taylors triumphant march back to run for elections in 2012 in Liberia, or how taylor is being singled by the West because he is black! Can you really be seriouys saying this rubbish? Some of you need serious learning because you are showing your knowledge as being hampered with lack of information and how to process it! I welcome comments!
I have noticed that you have never discussed the susbstance of this case your opinion of Taylor is obviously clouded by mallaice and bitterness albeit unguarded. At least if you charge somebody for commiting an offence natural justice demands that you present CREDIBLE evidence to support your case.
To be sincere, if you were in Charles Taylor’s shoes would you have satisfied your conscience that justice is being served here?
Comeon, this is somebody’s father, Husband, uncle, niece, etc. he deserves to have a right to his freedom which can only be withdrawn if there is a valid and CREDIBLE case against him which in all fairness, is not the case right now.
LMAO!!! This website is suppose to be a site where we can express our views about the Trial but one side is basing their arguments on the so called facts from the prosecution and facts from the defense… Why is the other side not saying anything about the prosecution presentation?? Instead they are brabbing for straws…. Please people if u gonna be anti taylor, come with arguments about the trial… This is about the TRIAL!!! Not wat Taylor did in Liberia… So please save it
j fallah menjor,
Let discuss the issues here, and stop the name calling.
The persecution evidence and the defence evidence. If you are a high class thinker, proved it, but name calling,,,,,, man that’s very LOW.
With no disrespect,
j fallah menjor is arrested for drug abuse.
In court I am one of the persecutor witness. On the witness stand I tell the court a relative of j fallah menjor told a friend,who told one of my sister friend that told me that j fallah menjor is a user. But I have not seen you use or abuse drugs, but I have seen you drink, and sometimes smoke. In simple English, will I be helping the persecutor case? will my HEARSAY be good for ur jail time? You
provided all the test in the world that show you are not a user. Who should the judge believed you or the persecutor.
“THIS IS THE CASE MY BROTHER, NO EVIDENCE NO NOTHING ONLY HEARSAY”.
PLS think about it.
J. Fallah menjor,
You should understand that not everybody posting comments about this trial of Mr. Taylor are ex- fighters for Mr. Taylor. Some of us lost our relatives during the war in Liberia and Sierra Leone but the fact of the matter is that, if you are speaking in the name of Justice then it should be fair. Let me tell you, a brother of mine was killed in August of 1993 in our town called Felakalah, Sanoyeah District, lower Bong County Republic of Liberia. He was not Killed by Liberian instead he was killed by Sierra Leonean fighting alongside ULIMO.
They killed the young man only because they asked him to show them the bush road along the ST. Paul river getting on the main road to Totota. He told them that the bush road was no longer good due to farming along the river. They killed him while his wife and children looking at him and they told his wife to kiss the dead body!
So if the international community want to prosecute Mr. Taylor, then they should provide the evidences that support their claims but not asking Mr. Taylor as president of Liberia to get involved in peace making in Sierra Leone and then used that against him.
Incase he was to say no at the time, what would have been the prosecution actions? So please don’t go about insulting people just because they don’t agree with your views. What many of us are saying here is that, there are Sierra Leonean who order fighters in their Country to kiiled thier own people and chopps off their hands and legs. During the worst days of the NPFL war in Liberia, Mr. Taylor did not order any of his fighters to cut the hands and legs of Liberians as the prosecution is saying he did in Sierra Leone. Another thing here, in Liberia now a day, many of the crimes are committed by Sierra Leonean who were resettle in Liberia. In May of this year, the Representitive of Careysburg District, Hon. Richard Holder hand got broken by arms robbers who later killed he ( Richard Holder ) cousin. All of the arm robbers were Sierra Leonean who were working on diamond mine in Bensonville.
Thank you Jacone, but do you want me to believe you lost family members due to this man you are supporting but support him still regardless of that? Even if what you are saying were true there is no reason to apply your case here! We are talking about taylor’s involvement in the Sierra Leone War and Diamonds for arms! You may not be an ex-fighter, but most of you supporters seem to have lost a quick daily bread through this taylor guy and therefore feel upset and furious about it. Let me tell you this; people are analysing what supporters are saying and the fair implications behind it. We see the same supporters, at times, feedinding into each others postings as if to say your attempt is to sway the polls in favor of taylor and failing to realize this is not about how many people think this guy is guilty or innocent. Do you get what I am saying? This case is just about simple logic..” why is taylor’s hand all over the internal affairs of a soveriegn state of Sierra Leone?”
J Fallah Menjor,
You get lost in your thoughts when you post. Take a deep breath forget about your malice for Mr. Taylor and listen to the facts of the trial. Then when you post whether we agree or disagree with you we can still be civil.
Could you please post my commet to fallah menjor dated, 09/15’09, 12;16 am
Hi Noko5 – unfortunately that comment got a tad too personal and it is against our policy to post it in its current form. If you can rephrase it and resubmit it, focussed on the key substantive issues that you raise, I will be happy to post your revised version. Sound okay?
J. Fallah Menjor,
My father is a Sierra Leonean and my mother Liberian. Taylor did nothing for me as far as you think he provided daily bread for me or others who are speaking for fair justice here. I am from a well settle family back ground. My mother is related to the Tolbert family and my father is from the Neavor family, a leading family in Sierra Leone.
Again not everybody posting commments here are supporters of Mr. Taylor. I haven’t live in Liberia for the past 13 years now; therefore, Taylor couldn’t have been the one to provide my daily bread. I do live in the United States and Serving in the US Military and I have served 10 years in the military, infact, I am deployed in Iraq as I am commenting here. So my comments on this trial has to do with the evidences presented in this case by the prosecutor and their witnesses on the stand who are testifying with out documentations. Mr. Taylor have told the world that he help RUF from August of 1991- May of 1992.
There are some of the prosecution witnesses who have testified that during the period of 1991 to 1997, Taylor was still sending weapons to RUF but NPFL didn’t control the border Liberia ans Sierra Leone.
Then the question would be, how possible can that be when ULIMO controled the Liberian- Sierra Leone border from late 1991 until August of 1997? Remember Mr. Taylor took office as President of Liberia in August of 1997 but before then, ULIMO controled the western region of Liberia up to the Guinean- Liberian border. The witness who testify taking weapons from Mr. Taylor home in 1997 for delivery to RUF in Sierra Leone, did he or the prosecution present documentations for that transaction, such as invoice of what he was carrying? If not, then why? If yes then where, and what is it?
I will not take possession of large quantities of weapons for delivery without any documentations or invoice of what I am carrying. I don’t think member of the RUF were that stupid to pay for weapons from Mr. Taylor with their diamonds and couldn’t get any documents to prove that indeed the weapons or goods they are getting is correct.
One of them also testify that Mr. Taylor order reinforcement from RUF in Sierra Leone during the fall of Gbanga in 1994 to recapture Gbanga, does that make sense to you J. fallah Menjor when RUF have to fight through ULIMO control areas before they can get to Gbanga, about 150 Miles away?
He also said that Mr. Sankoh was making public statements in Monrovia in 1990 for recruitment for Charles Taylor and RUF( I stand corrected on that), I was in Liberia then and I never heard him and if he did, don’t you think it could have been problem for him when Taylor didn’t completely control Monrovia.
As my feelings go for the peolpe of Sierra Leone and for my father family in Sierra Leone, I think Sierra Leonean need to do more to bring the real people who are responsible for the suffering of our people to Justice. Someone like former president Kabbah and his inner cicle to answer to the Sierra Leonean people!
Jocone, the taylor trial is about his connection to the conflict in Sierra Leone where the Prosecution thinks taylor was more than a mare Godfather, and that he had a far greater interest in the Diamond Fields than claimed by you, seemingly, dumb followers! Why will this man give money to RUF rebels, citizenships, an furnished guets houses to live in on visits to Liberia and he tells you that it was intended for peace purposes and you believe him? Is this not dumb in itself?
Jacone, I salute you for your service in the US Army. I, also have a son presently serving in the US Army in Afghanistan. Besides, He served In Bosnia, and Later in Iraq. He is a professional Soldier and will not come on this blog to talk about his family tree like you have just done. When I told a little about myself earlier it was only in response to Jose Rodriguez question about who I was..and etc. Yes I am proud of my educational background whether you like it or not because that is why I am capable of reading your thoughts and coming to a rational conclution each time you guys post a propaganda about this murderer, taylor! First of all I work in the US and that means I must be a desirable citizen to be able to do so and no one should wish for that citizenship to be taken away as if it were given by charles taylor to Boakerie!
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