Charles Taylor recruited and used children for military purposes in Liberia and it was therefore no surprise to him to learn that Sierra Leonean rebel forces were also using child soldiers during the West African country’s 11-year conflict, prosecutors said today during the former Liberian president’s cross-examination.
Lead prosecutor Brenda Hollis who is conducting Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination went through evidence that Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group used child soldiers during the Liberian conflict. Mr. Taylor denied Ms. Hollis assertions. Ms. Hollis further suggested that because of Mr. Taylor’s actions in using child soldiers in Liberia, it came as no surprise to him to know that child soldiers were being used by Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), an illegal junta regime that overthrew the elected government of Sierra Leone in 1997. Mr. Taylor said that he had no idea of what the RUF and AFRC did in Sierra Leone.
“You yourself had armed children, some as young as eight years old,” Ms. Hollis accused Mr. Taylor today.
“That is total nonsense. Every child that I held I put in an orphanage,” Mr. Taylor responded.
Mr. Taylor denied that his forces had child soldiers who patrolled the Liberian border with Ivory Coast in the early 1990s. He also said that it was not to his knowledge that children were acting as bodyguards to his NPFL commanders.
In response to prosecution allegation that he “used children as young as 10 to man check-points,” Mr. Taylor said that “I did not use any children as young as 10 to man check-points. There were soldiers and some of them had their relatives around them but I did not use any children to man check-points.”
As Ms. Hollis asserted that “use of child soldiers by the RUF and AFRC was no surprise to you,” Mr. Taylor responded that “I have no knowledge of what the AFRC and RUF did in Sierra Leone.”
In pointing out the activities of Mr. Taylor’s NPFL in Liberia, Ms. Hollis has been trying to convince the judges that Mr. Taylor knew of similar activities by Sierra Leonean rebel forces but could do nothing to stop them because he was doing the same things in Liberia. Referencing what the RUF rebels did in Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor responded that “what they did in those areas was not in consistent pattern with me. That is not correct.”
“No surprise to you of what they (RUF) did in Sierra Leone because it is the same that you did in Liberia,” Ms. Hollis persisted. “You were not truthful when you said that crimes committed in Sierra Leone were of surprise to you because they did not happen in Liberia,” she added.
In his response, Mr. Taylor said that “I had no knowledge of the inner workings of the RUF and AFRC.” He added that crimes such as amputations were not committed in Liberia and cases of rape were severely dealt with.
“Your forces committed amputations,” Ms. Hollis said.
“You know that is not true because there are no records of amputations in Liberia,” Ms. Taylor responded.
On the crime of rape, Mr. Taylor said that “I was surprised at rape because people in the NPFL who committed rape in Liberia were executed.”
Ms. Hollis also told Mr. Taylor that “the crimes in Sierra Leone were a reflection of the crimes your troops committed in Liberia. Using children in combat was a reflection of what your forces did in Liberia.”
“That is totally erroneous and incorrect,” Mr. Taylor responded.
Mr. Taylor also today denied prosecution allegations that his forces massacred civilians in Liberia and that he failed to take action against them. Ms. Hollis pointed that NPFL commanders such as Mark Guan, Melvin Sogbandi, Momoh Gibba and Mr. Taylor’s son Chuckie Taylor, all at one point or the other led forces to kill civilians in various towns and villages including Bomi County, Lofa County and Gbatalla. He said that he never received reports that any of these commanders had killed civilians. As Ms. Hollis tried to present documents in support of her assertion, such as the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, the judges ruled that such evidence was probative to the guilt of the accused, and since the prosecution had not proved that the use of such new documents will be in the interest of justice or that it will not affect the fair trial rights of the accused, they could not be used in the cross-examination of Mr. Taylor.
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.