Prosecutors in the trial of Charles Taylor this week made an application to Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague for the issuance of a subpoena to supermodel Naomi Campbell, who is alleged to have received a rough diamond gift from the former Liberian president after a 1997 state dinner with former South African president Nelson Mandela. As proceedings continued in his trial, Mr. Taylor’s 12th witness, who previously served as a radio operator for the former president’s rebel group, refuted claims by a former Sierra Leonean rebel member who in his testimony for prosecutors said that he was trained as a radio operator by the present witness while in Liberia.
Mr. Taylor’s trial took a dramatic twist on Thursday, when prosecutors, who closed their case against the former president in February 2009, made an application to the judges that they be allowed to reopen their case or bring evidence in rebuttal against Mr. Taylor by calling three additional witnesses, namely supermodel “Ms. Naomi Campbell, Ms. Carole White and Ms. Mia Farrow.” The application also requested that the judges issue an order to subpoena supermodel Ms. Campbell to testify about a diamond gift she allegedly received from Mr. Taylor in South Africa in 1997.
During the cross-examination of Mr. Taylor in January 2010, prosecutors raised the issue of Mr. Taylor allegedly giving the gift of a rough diamond to Ms. Campbell while the former president was on a visit to South Africa. Prosecutors alleged that Ms. Farrow, a close friend of Ms. Campbell, had informed them that the supermodel (Ms. Campbell) told her that after having dinner with former South African president Nelson Mandela in 1997, Mr. Taylor had sent his men to meet her in her hotel room and offer her a gift of a rough diamond. The prosecutors allege this diamond was obtained by Mr. Taylor from the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) military junta that, in partnership with Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, ruled Sierra Leone in 1997. Mr. Taylor dismissed the allegation as “nonsense.”
The judges refused to allow the admission of evidence relating to this incident because there was no evidence to show that Ms. Farrow had made such statement under oath or by sworn affidavit, and the admission of such “fresh evidence” would be prejudicial to the accused, such prejudice outweighing the probative value of the evidence.
Prosecutors now argue in their motion that “the evidence was unknown to the prosecution when it formally closed its case on 27 February 2009.” They argue that “it concerns a ‘central issue’ to the prosecution’s case: The Accused’s possession of rough diamonds.”
“When considered in the totality of the prosecution evidence, the proposed evidence supports prosecution allegations that the Accused used rough diamonds for personal enrichment and arms purchases for Sierra Leone, especially during the AFRC/RUF period in 1997. The proposed evidence also rebuts the Accused testimony that he never possessed rough diamonds,” the prosecution motion states.
If judges grant the prosecution request to call these three additional witnesses, the next question will be how do they get Ms. Campbell to come to the court and testify about the alleged incident, after she has already refused to comment on the matter to newsmen. It is in this light that prosecutors have also requested the judges to issue a subpoena to oblige Ms. Campbell to avail herself before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague.
Relying on the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, prosecutors are seeking that the subpoena be issued ordering Ms. Campbell to testify before the court and an order be given to the Registry of the court to serve and enforce the subpoena on Ms. Campbell.
“Ms. Campbell, the actual recipient of the Accused’ gift of diamonds, is clearly in a position to provide material evidence about this event,” the motion states.
“The prosecution’s repeated efforts to interview Ms. Campbell about this event have been unsuccessful and Ms. Campbell has given public statements that she does not wish to be involved in this case. Thus, judicial intervention in the form of a subpoena is necessary,” prosecutors argue.
Prosecutors also argue in their motion that Ms. White, who was Ms. Campbell’s representative in 1997, has told prosecutors in an interview that she was present in South Africa in 1997 and “personally heard Mr. Taylor say he wanted to give diamonds to Ms. Campbell and she personally saw the diamonds delivered to Ms. Campbell by men on behalf of Mr. Taylor.”
As proceedings continued in court this week, Mr. Taylor’s witness, Joseph Menson Dehmie, told the court that prosecution witness and former RUF radio operator Dauda Aruna Fornie, commonly called DAF, lied to the court when he testified that he had undergone training as a radio operator under the present witness while in Liberia. Mr. Dehmie described Mr. Fornie as a starving young man who had come to him for assistance, which said assistance he had given to Mr. Fornie. Mr. Dehmie said Mr. Fornie spent about 4-5 months with him during which he (Fornie) cooked and fetched water for him.
“Counsel, I have told you that the only thing that I know about DAF was that he was in need of assistance and I gave him assistance. He was a cook and he used to fetch water for us. He was not a radio man, he never held a microphone. He was a cook,” Mr. Dehmie said as he responded to questions about Mr. Fornie undergoing training as a radio operator.
Mr. Fornie testified in 2008 that about 300 of RUF rebels were taken to a Liberian rebel base at Bomi Hills in Liberia in 1991 where they underwent advanced military training. Mr. Fornie also said that at Bomi Hills, the RUF rebels performed domestic chores for Mr. Taylor’s NPFL commanders. According to Mr. Fornie, he was in the RUF group assigned to the NPFL Signal Unit at Bomi Hills and was trained in the use of communication or radio equipment by the NPFL Signal Regional Commander named “Joseph Dehmie”– the witness who is presently testifying in Mr. Taylor’s defense.
On Thursday, Mr. Dehmie expressed his surprise to find out that Mr. Fornie was an RUF fighter. According to Mr. Dehmie, he only knew Mr. Fornie after the young man had approached him at Bomi Hills as a hungry man who was desperate to get food.
“I am only hearing this today,” Mr. Dehmie said.
“Up to the time he was with me, he did not tell me that he was a soldier. That is surprising to me. I am only hearing this now.”
Mr. Dehmie told the court that when Mr. Fornie approached him for help at Bomi Hills, “he [Fornie] was so desperate. He was tiny — even a Somalian refugee was better than him.”
On Friday, Mr. Dehmie contradicted Mr. Taylor’s account about the existence of radio stations belonging to the NPFL in Liberia. The witness also said that there were no communications between the NPFL and RUF rebels in Sierra Leone in the early 1990s, contrary to what Mr. Taylor himself had told the court in his testimony as a witness in his own defense.
After pointing out on a map of Liberia the various locations where the NPFL installed communication radios in Liberia during the West African country’s conflict, Mr. Dehmie told the court that he did not know anything about a radio station belonging to the NPFL that was called “Tree Top.”
Lead prosecutor Ms. Brenda Hollis pointed out that on September 19, 2009, Mr. Taylor himself, testifying as a witness in his own defense spoke about the radio station “Tree Top” when asked by his defense lawyers.
“Tree Top, to the best of my recollection – Tree Top was a radio – the principal – I think one of the principal radio posts in Gbarngha, if I am not mistaken, was called Tree Top,” Mr. Taylor told the court in September 2009.
Ms. Hollis also read from a February 24, 2010 transcript in which she quoted Mr. Taylor’s first defense witness Mr. Yanks Smythe, himself a former member of the NPFL who said that the “radio station Tree Top was located in Gbarngha.”
Mr. Dehmie still insisted that he did not know about “Tree Top.”
Mr. Taylor also in his testimony told the court that the NPFL maintained a radio station at Foya in Lofa County and that in the early days of the Sierra Leonean conflict in 1991-1992, there was radio communication between RUF rebels in Sierra Leone and his NPFL in Liberia. On Friday, Mr. Dehmie denied the existence of any NPFL radio station at Foya, insisting also that there was no radio communication between the RUF and the NPFL in the early 1990s.
Ms. Hollis read from an October 27, 2009 transcript in which Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths asked him (Taylor) about radio communications with the RUF in the early 1990s.
“If you wanted to communicate some information to an individual in Sierra Leone, how would you do that?” Mr. Griffiths asked Mr. Taylor in October 2009.
“I would instruct my radio operator Butterfly to transmit a message,” Mr. Taylor had responded.
When this was read out to Mr. Dehmie on Friday, he responded that “I am not convinced that this is what Mr. Taylor said but if this is from Mr. Taylor, he would have communicated on a radio that I did not know about.”
Earlier on Monday, prosecutors sought to impeach the credibility of Mr. Taylor’s 11th witness, former NPFL commander Timan Edward Zammy, by pointing out that the witness has not been truthful about how he was recruited into NPFL, as well as the positions he claims to have held in the rebel group during the early days of the Liberian conflict.
Mr. Zammy, who spent more than one week testifying for Mr. Taylor, focused mainly on the conduct of the NPFL in Liberia and refuting claims that the Liberian rebel group was best known for committing heinous crimes against civilians. Prosecutors say that the RUF rebel group – a group that Mr. Taylor is accused of supporting in Sierra Leone – copied their tactics from the NPFL. Mr. Zammy has said that civilians were protected in areas under NPFL control. As his cross-examination continued on Monday, prosecutors focused mainly on pointing out areas in the witness’s testimony where they believe he has not been truthful.
One area of focus on Monday was Mr. Zammy’s account about how he was recruited into the NPFL. What he has told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges is different from what he told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Liberia. During his direct-examination last week, Mr. Zammy told the court that he was recruited into the NPFL in the 1980s by one Alfred Mehn, popularly known in the NPFL as the “God Father.” Prosecution counsel Katherine Howarth pointed out to the witness that he had told the Liberian TRC that it was Mr. Taylor who recruited him into the NPFL while he was in Ivory Coast. Noting the discrepancy, the witness said that his testimony before the TRC was a mistake.
“So when you told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Charles Taylor recruited you from the Ivory Coast, you got that wrong, correct?” Ms. Howarth asked the witness.
“It is not wrong, it is an error. I am repeating it, it’s an error, it’s a mistake,” the witness responded.
Asked directly whether he was saying that he had “made a mistake when giving evidence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” the witness said “yes.”
“A mistake is not a lie, a mistake is allowed to be made, anybody can make a mistake,” Mr. Zammy said.
Ms. Howarth also pressed the witness hard on his evidence in direct-examination that in 1991, Mr. Taylor appointed him as Battalion Commander for the sixth Battalion of the NPFL, which was stationed in Bomi Hills. Ms. Howarth pointed out that other defense witnesses who testified about the NPFL command structure did not mention Mr. Zammy’s name as Commander of the sixth Battalion. These defense witnesses included Yanks Smythe, Karnah Edward Mineh, and Mr. Taylor himself.
Reading from a January 2010 transcript, Ms. Howarth pointed out that Mr. Taylor, while he testified on his own behalf, only referred to Mr. Zammy as “an Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) officer” and as “one of the Special Forces.”
“This is all he [Taylor] had to say about you. He doesn’t mention you as sixth Battalion commander. Another defense witness Yanks Smythe does not mention you as sixth Battalion commander and your one time friend Edward Mineh does not mention you as sixth Battalion commander. Were you actually sixth Battalion commander?” Ms. Howarth asked the witness.
“I will not tell lies. I served as sixth Battalion Commander in 1991…I was commander of the sixth Battalion from February 1991 to November 1991,” the witness responded.
Prosecutors believe that pointing these flaws in Mr. Zammy’s testimony will impeach his credibility and make him a witness whose account cannot be relied on.
As he concluded his testimony on Tuesday, Mr. Zammy told the court that areas controlled by the NPFL were the safest zones for civilians during the Liberian conflict. The witness also dismissed as “lies” claims that the NPFL was involved in looting civilian property, killing of civilians, rape, and sexual slavery – at least in his area.
“Civilians came to NPFL controlled areas because it was only the NPFL areas that were safe,” Mr. Zammy said.
When pressed with reports of more abuses allegedly committed by NPFL rebels against the civilian population of Liberia, the witness clarified that his knowledge of NPFL conduct was limited to places which were under his control.
“I am not saying that within the whole of Liberia there was no violation, I am talking about my controlled area. I did not control Grand Jida, I did not control Lofa. The things that happened there I can’t tell. But within my controlled areas is what I am talking about,” he explained.
The witness dismissed as “untrue” the Liberian TRC report that the highest number of atrocities during the Liberian conflict were committed by NPFL rebels.
“The TRC report is not correct. Members of the TRC, even the chairman said he was victimized by the NPFL. What do you expect him to say about the NPFL?” the witness asked.
“The chairman was supposed to be neutral but if he makes such a comment about the NPFL, what do you expect him to say? The TRC report is not correct,” he insisted.
Mr. Taylor is responding to charges that he provided support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone during the West African country’s 11 year civil conflict. The former president has denied all charges against him.
There will be no court sittings next week as the judges will be attending the plenary session for judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor’s trial will resume on Monday, May 31, with a continuation of Mr. Dehmie’s cross-examination.