Foreign countries interfered in Charles Taylor’s revolution in Liberia and prevented the former president from liberating his people, a witness in Mr. Taylor’s defense told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today.
“The Liberian revolution failed because foreign hands interfered in the Liberian revolution to disturb the revolution and prevent His Excellency President Taylor from liberating the country,” witness DCT 125, who finished his direct-examination today, told the court.
The witness, who has been testifying with protective measures, has given most of his testimony in closed/private sessions and on occasions when his testimony has been heard in open court, he has testified using voice and facial distortion mechanisms. When court resumed this morning, the witness was absent. Mr. Taylor’s lead defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, informed the judges that the witness was ill and so could not appear in court. After being given medical treatment by a doctor who said he was fit and able to continue testifying, the judges ordered that the witness be brought to court and take the witness stand.
As he concluded his testimony today, the witness told the judges that Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peacekeeping force was not neutral in the Liberian conflict. He said that the peacekeepers were more sympathetic towards the other Liberian warring factions at the expense of Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group.
During cross-examination by prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, the witness told the court that the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), the Sierra Leonean rebel group which Mr. Taylor is accused of providing support for, is not a terrorist organization as alleged by prosecutors. Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber, Justice Julia Sebutinde, asked the witness to give his definition of terrorist organization.
“It is an organization that is bent on the destruction of life and property without any meaning and purpose, to disturb the peace within the human being,” the witness said.
Mr. Taylor is charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law including crimes of rape, terrorizing the civilian population, murder, conscription and use of child soldiers, looting and pillage of civilian property committed in the territory of Sierra Leone from 1996 to 2002. Prosecutors have alleged that while Mr. Taylor was not present in Sierra Leone, he exercised superior authority over RUF rebels and provided military and financial support to the rebels during Sierra Leone’s 11 years conflict. Three RUF commanders have already been found guilty and convicted by Special Court for Sierra Leone judges for similar crimes with which Mr. Taylor is charged.
Before the end of today’s proceedings, Mr. Koumjian requested that the cross-examination of the witness be suspended and that prosecutors be given more time to prepare for the cross-examination of the witness. Mr. Koumjian explained that defense lawyers for Mr. Taylor had failed to disclose the witness’s personal information to prosecutors within the 21 day period required. The prosecution request was granted and so the witness’s cross-examination was suspended.
A new defense witness will commence his or her testimony tomorrow.