Prosecutors told Charles Taylor that he had “reason to lie” during his four months of testimony which he had spent rebutting charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in crimes during Sierra Leone’s brutal conflict — and that he needed to prepare to be “honest” in cross-examination, which started today in The Hague.
Lead prosecution counsel, Ms. Brenda Hollis, who is conducting Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination told the former president he has not been “honest” in direct-examination and that she is ready to prove that Mr. Taylor has been telling lies. Ms. Hollis, briefly taking Mr. Taylor through a few documents that he had discussed in direct-examination, pointed out the absence of certain key words used by the accused former president. In a letter written by Mr. Taylor to former United States president George Bush, Ms. Hollis asked Mr. Taylor to point out in the letter where he had said to Mr. Bush that he would step down as Liberian president, as claimed by the former president in his direct examination.
In his response, Mr. Taylor said that the portion of the letter which read that “I have considered recusing myself from the political process” indicated his intention to step down as Liberian president.
“That is my understanding counsel, that is how I understand it,” Mr. Taylor said.
Ms. Hollis, referencing Mr. Taylor’s May 2000 meeting with United States Special Envoy for Africa, Rev. Jesse Jackson, accused Mr. Taylor of not giving Rev. Jackson an honest answer when he did not admit that former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander Sam Bockarie and his fighters were being trained as mercenaries by Mr. Taylor in Liberia. Mr. Taylor “misled” the US envoy, as Ms. Hollis put it to the accused. Mr. Taylor denied the allegation, insisting that he gave an honest answer to the US Special Envoy.
“I object to the fact of mercinerization. I did give an honest answer to Special Envoy Jackson. Your suggestion that I was dishonest is not true and you should not allude to that,” Mr. Taylor said.
“I was not being misleading and if Special Envoy Jackson had asked me whether I was training those men and I said no, then I would have been misleading,” he added.
Mr. Taylor insisted that if he had been training Sierra Leonean rebel fighters and supplying arms and ammunition to RUF rebels, he would have said so. He also denied ever receiving diamonds from RUF rebels in Sierra Leone.
“If I had been training or supplying arms to the RUF, there is no reason why I would have denied it. If I had done so, I would have said so,” the former president said.
As he denied allegations of his alleged support to RUF rebels and receiving diamonds mined in Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor accused the prosecution of building its case on “lies.”
“To suggest that I will deny something like that, remember, this whole case is a lie–my activities as president, that I sent arms to Sierra Leone, that I received diamonds from Sierra Leone, there is no evidence and your failure accept it, it’s all lies,” he said.
Ms. Hollis put it to Mr. Taylor that he has more reason to lie about his actions compared to the numerous witnesses who have testified against him. Mr. Taylor responded that “I have told this court the truth, unless you bring evidence that I am lying.”
“We will prove that,” Ms. Hollis responded.
Earlier in the day, as Mr. Taylor concluded his direct-examination, he discredited newspaper articles and intelligence reports on his alleged involvement in the conflict in Sierra Leone. The former Liberian president also challenged the honesty of the UN’s actions in authorizing the freezing of his assets as well as UN Security Council Resolution 1688 of 2006 authorizing his trial in The Hague.
“This whole issue and how it has been handled has been strange but that is the nature of this case,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a message to the press, the acting Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Mr. Joseph Kamara, also outlined how the prosecution intends to cross-examine Mr. Taylor.
“We will directly challenge Mr. Taylor in three ways–on the accuracy, the truthfulness and the completeness of his testimony,” Mr. Kamara said.
Mr. Taylor has been charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by rebel forces in Sierra Leone. He has denied all charges.
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.