A witness defending Charles Taylor today said he never heard of the former Liberian president giving orders to his own rebel forces to kill, rape, loot or burn people’s houses, as alleged by prosecutors.
A protected witness, testifying under the pseudonym DCT 125 and with face and voice distortion, said if any crimes were committed under Mr. Taylor’s rule, they were isolated incidents which could have taken place without Mr. Taylor’s knowledge. The witness maintained this position in a direct question and answer session with Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, at the Special Court for Sierra Leone today.
“Were you ever aware of Charles Taylor giving an order to kill?” Mr. Griffiths asked the witness.
“Never,” the witness responded.
“To burn people’s houses?” Mr. Griffiths went on.
“Never,” the witness responded again.
“To rape?” Mr. Griffiths went further.
“Never,” again, the witness responded.
“To loot?” Mr. Griffiths asked again.
“Never,” the witness said for the fourth time.
The witness added that “maybe if that had happened, it would be an isolated incident without Charles Taylor’s knowledge.”
The witness explained that he had been a pan-African revolutionary colleague of Mr. Taylor, adding that he personally did not have any specific interest in helping to start a conflict in Liberia. He said that he did not help Mr. Taylor in his invasion of Liberia in 1989, but that together with some other colleagues who were not named in court today, he moved to Liberia to help provide security for the former Liberian president whose NPFL rebel group was split into two when one of Mr. Taylor’s former rebel colleagues, Prince Johnson, led his break-away faction from the NPFL at the initial stages of the Liberian conflict.
Asked by Mr. Griffiths why he and his colleagues had decided to join Mr. Taylor in Liberia, the witness explained that “we don’t have any interest in Liberia. With notice that his life is threatened and there is a split within his movement, we decided that we should provide him with security to safeguard his life.”
DCT 125 has been on the witness stand since last week and a huge part of his testimony has been heard in private or closed session. He has been rebutting prosecution evidence against Mr. Taylor, including allegations that the former president gave orders to his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebels to commit crimes such as rape, murder of civilians, looting of civilian property and burning of houses and public buildings. Similar crimes were committed by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone, a rebel group which Mr. Taylor is on trial for allegedly supporting during the West African country’s 11-years civil conflict. Mr. Taylor has denied providing support to the RUF.
DCT 125’s testimony continues tomorrow.