When a defense witness said that Liberian rebel forces killed a wounded Prisoner of War (POW) because he was still considered an enemy soldier, judges in the trial of former Liberian President took a keen interest today. (It is against international law to execute prisoners of war who have laid down their arms and who have not first received a fair trial).
“We killed the first wounded prisoner of war because he was an enemy soldier, and he exchanged fire with our men,” said Timeh Edward Zammy, a former member of Mr. Taylor’s rebel group, the National Patriootic Front of Liberia told the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Mr. Zammy was referring to the first prisoner of war that was captured along the Liberian border with Ivory Coast in 1989 because he had had attempted to exchange fire with the rebels. He said the POW was among Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) personnel sent by former Liberian president Samuel Doe to prevent the NPFL from taking the Liberian town of Gbutuo in Nimba County.
His statement drew questions from two judges: Justice Teresa Doherty and presiding judge, Justice Julia Sebutinde.
“Did you kill a Prisoner of War?” Justice Doherty asked the witness.
“The Prisoner of War was the soldier, one of the soldiers who exchanged fires with our men, and he was an enemy. He never surrendered,” the witness said.
“Please answer my question,” Justice Doherty said again.
“I said yes, he was an enemy who attacked us,” Mr. Zammy said.
“Mr. Witness, the question was simply, did you kill the Prisoner of War?” the presiding judge, Justice Sebutinde asked.
“Yes, he was killed because he was an enemy, a soldier who attacked us,” the witness responded.
“I did not ask you why, we just wanted to hear whether the prisoner was killed or not killed. That was the only question,” Justice Sebutinde pressed the witness further.
The witness eventually said that the prisoner was killed.
Mr. Taylor is on trial for allegedly providing support to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone from 1996 to 2002. To prove their case against Mr. Taylor, prosecutors have sought to raise issues concerning the commission of similar crimes in Liberia when Mr. Taylor was leader of the NPFL and later president of Liberia. Prosecutors have tried to establish that crimes committed in Liberia were similar to or the same as those committed by the RUF in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor’s defense team, however, has rejected all allegations against him, and has sought to present a case which focuses on Mr. Taylor’s role as a peacemaker and a leader who was interested only in the welfare of his people and of neighboring countries.
Mr. Zammy, in continuing his discussion on how the Liberian civil war was conducted told the court that when the NPFL attacked Liberia in 1989, the military plan was to overthrow the government of former president Doe within 72 hours. This, he said, was not possible because one of the NPFL Special Forces who had been trained in Libya betrayed the revolution. According to the witness, Sam Tozay, a Special Forces officer, disclosed all their military plans to former president Doe.
“Sam went and met Doe, and then revealed all our secrets to Samuel Kayan Doe–how we were trained, where we were trained, who is leading us, our strength, our total number, he explained everything, and then the men we had even sent inside, he explained every thing about them–how they used to dress, the types of signals they had on themselves as an identifying symbol, the way they were dressing in a special commando form, so then the information had leaked. And they started arresting those guys.” Mr. Zammy said.
The plan was to launch a simultaneous attack on all military installations in and around Monrovia at 5am on December 25, 1989. Among the military installations attacked, the witness said, were Camp Nama, Camp Sheiffling and the Barclay Training Center.
Mr. Zammy’s testimony continues on Monday.