Charles Taylor executed his own rebel commanders who sold arms to the Sierra Leonean rebels, as well as prosecuted and punished rebels who harmed civilians, a witness testifying for the former Liberian president told the Special Court for Sierra Leone this week.
Timan Edward Zammy, a former Brigade Commander in Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group also said that a fellow Liberian rebel Joseph “Zig Zag” Marzah lied before the court when he testified against Mr. Taylor in 2008. He referred to Mr. Marzah as a “drug addict” who is “not of a sound mind.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Zammy testified to Mr. Taylor’s disciplinary measures in the NPFL during the Liberian conflict. The witness explained how Mr. Taylor ensured the execution of two NPFL commanders because they had sold arms and ammunition to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone — a group which prosecutors now allege that Mr. Taylor supplied with arms and ammunition in pursuit of the war in Sierra Leone.
Mr. Taylor himself had previously told the court that he had disciplined certain NPFL commanders because he found out they wanted to provide assistance to the RUF — an action to which he said he was opposed. On Tuesday, Mr. Zammy corroborated the former president’s testimony. Mr. Zammy pointed out that one of the NPFL commanders who had sold arms and ammunition to the RUF and hence executed was Anthony Munkunagbe. Prosecutors have alleged that Mr. Taylor ordered the execution of Mr. Menkunagbe and a few other NPFL commanders because he thought they were opposed to his leadership of the NPFL. Mr. Taylor, however, has said that the men were executed because they committed acts of treason against the NPFL by forming a group called Black Ghadaffa and planned to associate themselves with the RUF.
To justify Mr. Menkunagbe’s execution, Mr. Zammy told the court that Mr. Menkunagbe himself had admitted to him that he had sold arms and ammunition to the RUF.
“He [Menkunagbe] sent me a hundred and fifty bags of rice and some pigs feet, about five barrels, three motorbikes, and some food stuffs. And he told me that those are your own proceeds from the deal. He said but don’t worry, I sold the arms, not you. We are fighting a rebel war,” the witness explained.
Also in his testimony on Tuesday, the witness explained that when NPFL recruits were trained, they were given strict warnings on how to treat civilians. He said that the NPFL recruits were told that “no rape, no civilian target, no one should kill civilian targets, except those who shoot at you.”
He added that the recruits were, however, told that if a person in civilian clothes shot at them, they were at liberty to treat such person as an enemy combatant.
“If a person fires at you even if in civilian clothing, you should consider that person as enemy,” the witness said.
“Some people will take off their uniforms and wear civilian clothes and so if a civilian shoots at you, he should be considered an enemy,” he added.
Some members of the NPFL, including senior commanders, were executed because they went against the advice given to them not to kill civilians, the witness told the court.
“Some fighters who violated were executed at the full level of implementation,” the witness said.
Such execution, the witness said, would be carried out only after the accused person had been investigated and tried by a Court Martial constituted by the NPFL hierarchy.
“When you violate, you’ll be arrested, investigated, and court martialled. And if you are found guilty, you’ll be executed,” he said.
Prosecutors have suggested that Mr. Taylor led a rebel group that committed crimes against civilians with impunity. Mr. Taylor, they claim, did not prevent the commission of these crimes and when he knew that they had been committed, he did not take steps to punish his fighters who were the perpetrators. Prosecutors say that RUF rebels conducted themselves just like the NPFL did in Liberia. They say that Mr. Taylor, while supporting the RUF, gave a blind eye to the crimes they committed. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations. It is in this light that Mr. Taylor’s witness, Mr. Zammy, has testified that Mr. Taylor did not only take steps to prevent the commission of these crimes by telling his fighters to treat civilians well, but also that when he knew that such crimes had been committed, he took steps to punish the violators.
On Wednesday, as defense lawyers for Mr. Taylor concluded Mr. Zammy’s direct-examination, the witness told the judges that his former NPFL colleague, Mr. Marzah, who testified against Mr. Taylor in 2008, lied when he told the court that he was very close to Mr. Taylor. (Mr. Marzah had told the judges that Mr. Taylor assigned him to the First Battalion of the NPFL in the early days of the war in Liberia, that the former President had sent him to transport arms and ammunition for RUF in exchange for diamonds and that on occasions, he and Mr. Taylor feasted on human intestines and other body parts. Mr. Taylor, however, regarded Mr. Marzah’s testimony as “disgusting,” saying Mr. Marzah was illiterate, not of a sound mind, was a mere orderly to Benjamin Yeaten, the then Director of Mr. Taylor’s Special Security Services (SSS), and therefore would never have even come close to Mr. Taylor while he was president). On Wednesday, Mr. Zammy shared similar sentiments about Mr. Marzah.
“Zig Zag Marzah is not a sound person. When Marzah was with Benjamin Yeaten, he used to take drugs and they tied him and threw him into dirty water,” the witness said.
“Zig Zag Marzah was just a dirty man in the NPFL. We later came to know that he was not sound. Marzah lies like someone I will not be able to describe,” said Mr. Zammy.
The witness added that as a mere bodyguard, Mr. Marzah was not even allowed to go close to his immediate boss, Mr. Yeaten, the Director of the SSS.
“Benjamin Yeaten did not allow him to go close to him. He was always in the Kitchen. That is what I know about him,” he said.
Mr. Marzah’s 2008 testimony against Mr. Taylor supported prosecution charges that the former Liberian president provided support to RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Zammy told the court this week that Mr. Marzah is not credible and should not be relied on to tell the truth.
“All what Marzah has said is a lie. I do not believe him. Marzah is a liar,” the witness said.
The witness also refuted Mr. Marzah’s claims that he (Marzah) was a close associate to Mr. Taylor who dined with the former president and who Mr. Taylor sent on special operations.
“Marzah was way down the line. He was not even close to Mr. Taylor. Marzah would not even go close to Mr. Taylor for any appointment,” the witness explained.
Mr. Zammy, in his testimony on Wednesday, refuted another aspect of Mr. Marzah’s account in his 2008 testimony that the NPFL would kill civilians, display their heads on car bumpers, and use their intestines to make check points as a means of instilling fear in civilians.
“It’s a lie. It never even happened. It’s a great lie. Nobody put human skulls on vehicles. It’s a lie,” Mr. Zammy asserted.
On the use of human intestines to make check points, Mr. Zammy said that “nobody ever used intestines as check points. It’s a lie.”
Another development which took place in court on Wednesday was a discovery by the judges that certain aspects of a particular 2008 court transcript had been tampered with, allegedly by staff members of the court’s language unit, who according to initial reports had found out that certain aspects of the particular transcript needed to be corrected because the wrong translations had been reflected in the court records. The corrections were said to have been made without the knowledge of the judges. When this was discovered on Wednesday, presiding judge of the Trial Chamber Justice Julia Sebutinde was outraged, saying that nobody had the authority to change court records without instructions from the judges and without the knowledge of all parties concerned. She indicated that the matter will be looked into.
Earlier on Monday, proceedings were adjourned for the whole day because Mr. Taylor was absent in court for reasons which were only discussed in closed session. Liberian press reports indicated that Mr. Taylor had not gone to court because he was suffering from a severe heart problem and that the court had refused him medical treatment. On Wednesday, the judges in court and the court’s Registrar in an official press release dismissed those press reports as false.
The Charles Taylor trial also held its final proceedings in the premises of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday. The remainder of the trial will be served out in the premises of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), a newly constructed court room also in The Hague with jurisdiction “to try all those who are alleged responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 in Beirut that killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others.” The Charles Taylor trial adjourned proceedings for Thursday and Friday because the court needed time to do a test of equipment within the STL court room.
Mr. Taylor’s trial will resume on Monday at the new STL court room with the continuation of the cross-examination of Mr. Zammy.