Sierra Leonean rebel forces captured arms and ammunition from enemy forces and also purchased some from Guinean soldiers, a defense witness for Charles Taylor told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today in The Hague. The witness also denied prosecution allegations that Mr. Taylor supplied Sierra Leonean rebels with weapons during the country’s brutal 11-year conflict.
A Liberian national, who in his testimony last week said he was a member of the Sierra Leonean rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF), today explaining that whenever the RUF captured positions occupied by forces loyal to government of Sierra Leone, they obtained arms and ammunition from the enemy forces. He also explained how the RUF bought arms and ammunition from Guinean soldiers across the Sierra Leonean border with Guinea.
Prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Taylor provided arms and ammunition to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, which were used to launch attacks and commit atrocities against civilians. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations, insisting that his country did not have arms and ammunition to fight rebel forces in Liberia, so he could not have provided any to the RUF.
The witness’s testimony today reiterated the information contained in the 1999 Salute Report prepared by RUF commander, Sam Bockarie, for his leader Foday Sankoh upon his release from jail. In this report, Mr. Bockarie explained how the RUF was run as an organization during Mr. Sankoh’s incarceration. Mr. Bockarie reported that arms and ammunition were captured from enemy forces while some were also bought from Guinean Soldiers. The report did not state anything about the RUF receiving arms and ammunition from Mr. Taylor.
Also in The Hague today, newly appointed Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Brenda Hollis, spoke with the press and denied suggestions that the United States and Great Britain had influenced Mr. Taylor’s trial. Mr. Taylor and his defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths have consistently said that Mr. Taylor’s trial is a result of a conspiracy by Western countries led by the US and the UK. Ms. Hollis today said that Mr. Taylor is on trial because the government of Sierra Leone requested the UN to set up a Special Court for Sierra Leone that would try those who bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Sierra Leone from 1996 to 2002. She added that she is leading an independent team of prosecutors that does not take instructions from anybody. In response to concerns that the position of Chief Prosecutor of the court has been occupied mainly by Americans, Ms. Hollis responded that Desmond da Silva, a British national, and Joseph Kamara, a Sierra Leonean national, have previously held the same position.
Mr. Taylor’s trial continues tomorrow.