Charles Taylor did not plan any operations with Sierra Leonean rebels during the country’s 11-year civil conflict, he told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today at his trial in The Hague.
“I did not plan any operations with them [Sierra Leonean rebels],” the accused former president said today in response to allegations that he helped the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in planning specific operations against the government and people of Sierra Leone.
“I never did. It is beyond my comprehension, how did these people manage this? It did not happen,” he added.
Mr. Taylor was responding to the testimony of a former RUF insider Karmoh Kanneh who testified in May 2008 that Mr. Taylor helped the RUF rebels in planning how to attack Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown in 1999. Mr. Kanneh’s testimony reinforced prosecution allegations that Mr. Taylor was involved in a joint criminal enterprise with the RUF and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) which overthrew the elected government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah in May 1997. The AFRC junta, which formed an alliance with the RUF, was forcefully removed from power by West African peacekeepers in February 1998. As the AFRC/RUF forces withdrew to Sierra Leonean’s hinterland, they committed various attrocities and in May 1999, there was an attack on the country’s capital Freetown during which civilians were killed or amputated, houses set on fire and offences of sexual violence committed. The prosecution alleges that Mr. Taylor was part of the plan to commit these crimes and therefore bears responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.
Dismissing Mr. Kanneh’s testimony today that he (Taylor) was part of the “plan and design” to attack Freetown in 1999, Mr. Taylor claimed that the witness was “put together” with these legal terms (plan and design).
“This sounds like legal language, designed and planned, he was put together” he said. “I was never part of the plan. Who ever put this together is definitely lying,” he added.
Mr. Taylor also reiterated a common position he has taken throughout his testimony, denying prosecution allegations that he supplied the RUF rebels with arms and ammunition, which were used to commit attrocities in Sierra Leone, in exchange for diamonds. Prosecution witnesses have testified that RUF commanders — including Sam Bockarie, Issa Sesay and Eddie Kanneh — made regular trips to Liberia, taking with them diamonds for Mr. Taylor. Mr. Taylor has consistently denied these allegations.
“Nobody is bringing me diamonds, not Eddie Kanneh, not Issa Sesay, nobody ever brought me diamonds. I never received diamonds from any human being in Sierra Leone,” the accused former Liberian president persisted.
In response to allegations that Mr. Taylor supplied arms and ammunition to the AFRC and RUF sometime in 1998 using helicopters, Mr. Taylor today told the court that as of 1998, the Liberian government did not have any helicopters.
“I did not have a helicopter at this time,” he told the judges.
He explained that it was only in the begining of 1999 that his givernment obtained an MI2 helicopter, which he said was too small to even transport arms.
Mr. Taylor also refuted the witness’ account that he ordered the RUF rebels to attack Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels in Lofa County in 2000. As in previous testimonies, Mr. Taylor dismissed as “lies” allegations that he gave promotions to RUF commanders Sam Bockarie and Issa Sesa.
“I never made any suggestion or recommendation for promotion in Sierra Leone or anything closer to that,” he said.
Mr. Taylor dismissed Mr. Kanneh’s entire testimony as a written script against him.
“It looks like a well written script,” he said.
Mr. Taylor’s testimony continues tomorrow.