NPFL Did Not Display Human Skulls And Intestines At Check Points, Witness says

Claims that Liberian rebel forces displayed human skulls and intestines at checkpoints to terrorize or scare civilians are false, Charles Taylor’s defense witness told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today in The Hague.

Karnah Edward Mineh, a rebel commander for the former Liberian president, today told the court that one of his former colleagues – Joseph “Zig Zag” Mahzah, also a Liberian rebel fighter – did not tell the truth when he described checkpoint gates decorated with human body parts during his 2008 testimony as a prosecution witness.

“The gate was placed there in order when enemies come or enemies come nearer to us so that we can be aware. It was not intended to kill humans and place the skull on a stick,” said Mr. Mineh, a former Brigade Commander of the First Battalion of Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group.

“We placed the gate, we did that so that we would know the enemy. Whenever we captured a town, we stayed there for a while, then we placed the gate just to know the coming of the enemy. This is what I know,” he added.

Mr. Mineh finished his testimony by insisting that Mr. Marzah had lied.

“What he (Marzah) explained to this court is not true,” Mr. Mineh said.

This disagreement relates to prosecution allegations that the Sierra Leonean rebel group – the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) – copied actions of Mr. Taylor’s Liberian rebels designed to terrorize civilians. Displaying human skulls and intestines at roadblocks is one of the tactics which prosecutors say that the RUF copied from the NPFL in order to inflict this terror.  The use of terror, according to prosecutors, was important in order to subdue the Sierra Leonean population so the RUF could maintain control of the country’s diamond mines.  These diamonds would then benefit both the RUF and Mr. Taylor, according to prosecutors, because the rebels would give Mr. Taylor diamonds in exchange for weapons which they would then use to commit crimes during the war.  Mr. Taylor has denied all the allegations against him.

During cross-examination by prosecutor Mohamed Bangura, Mr. Mineh also disagreed with an account of Mr. Taylor’s first defense witness, Yanks Smythe. This witness — a Gambian NPFL member and later, a Liberian ambassador to Libya – had told the court that while the Liberian rebels underwent revolutionary training in Libya in the 1980s, Mr. Taylor never visited the camp, called Tajura. Today, Mr. Mineh, who also trained in Libya at the same time, disagreed with Mr. Smythe. According to Mr. Mineh, Mr. Taylor visited the rebels regularly at Tajura to see how the training was being conducted. Mr. Bangura sought to highlight the disagreement between the two witnesses.

“So if somebody came to this court and told this court that Mr. Taylor was never seen at Tajura, that person would not be telling the court the truth, would they?” Mr. Bangura asked the witness.

“Yes, the person must be lying because Taylor came and we saw him. I saw him,” Mr. Mineh responded.

“And indeed over the period that you were there at Tajura, he must have come several times, not so?” Mr. Bangura enquired further.

“He came many times, I think three or four times,” Mr. Mineh said.

While this disagreement highlights different accounts by two different defense witnesses on the same issue, it will be left to the judges to determine the significance of this disagreement and which witness is more credible in their account.

Mr. Taylor is on trial because of his alleged role in the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law by Sierra Leone’s rebels during the country’s brutal 11-year war.  Prosecutors say Mr. Taylor controlled the rebels’ actions during the war, and also jointly developed and supported a criminal plan to terrorize the Sierra Leonean population and benefit from the country’s diamond wealth.

Mr. Mineh’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.


  1. Bravo, Mr. Bangura, for your excellent and simple questions to this man, Mineh. You see, there is no need asking uncomprehensive questions because literacy level needs to be taken into account. Most Commanders under taylor were either illitrates or semi-illitrates. They are unable, and usually will ither never remembered what others had said earlier, but only focused on what they were coached to stress here in their manufactured accounts of taylor’s crimes with intend to save him under all accounts! Now we see a big contradiction here today in the cross examination between Mineh’s accounts VS Symite on taylor’s visation to the training camp! Keep it simple..he has more to uncover if you keep it at his level of comprehension, Mr. Bangura!

    1. j.fallah menjor,
      Even the “big contradiction” between this witness and other witness do not prove that Mr. Taylor is guilty of the crimes he is charge with. Mr. Taylor said he visited his group in Libya. Because one witness was a member of his group and the other one was not, one would believe the witness who was a member of the group.

    2. Fallah,
      Mr Smythe didn’t see what Mr. Miner saw…does that mean Mr. Smythe is lieing??? Why do you jump so high only to have a humpy dumpy fall??

    3. Fallah,
      If you will base your logic in this case on what you call contradictions, then Mr. Taylor is a totally free man as we have always said. You will remember that most of your brothers and sisters that were paraded in this court and including the prosecution have for thousand times counteracted one another. For example, prosecution alleged that RUF rebels cut off people hands, but one witness said her hands were cut off by AFRC soldiers. Please keep you feelings about Mr. Taylor and keep focus on important issues in this Mickey Mouse case.


      Harris K Johnson

  2. we cant hear the judges speaking anymore.
    everytime they speak we hear translators,
    or every time the pross. speak we hear the translators
    on channel one when we switch to channel two we hear another language,but we can hear the judges speaking english on channel two…….. only the defence mic is in english,when everyone else speaks we hear translators. please look into this we cant hear the judges rulling or the pross, cross thanks [please hear my cry]……………………………..

  3. As a Liberian, it feels so difficult to see these witnesses lying about all the crimes CT n his NPFL commited during our cilvil crisis…..Why I don’t support the proposition that Crimes.-Commited by N PFL were the Same committed by RUF, hence, he supported them. The continuous denial of all his witnesses including–himself abt the atrocities his group commited against the LIB people is pathetic. Only God will pay him for the mayhem he carried out against the Liberian—people. May God bless the souls of our brothers, uncles,ants,fathers,mothers,daughters,sons, and sisters that lost their precious lives during Taylor’s Canage on the LIB people

    May God bless our state

    1. Keith Toe,
      Can one man fight a war against himself ? Please remember it was a civil war that Liberia went thru. Even the United States had a civil war which tore the country apart. Nigeria had a civil war which tore their country apart. Liberia is no exception but for you to blame Charles Taylor for all the carnage is wrong.

    2. Kieth Toe,
      since you take this stand then join the call for a war crimes tribunal to be set up for Liberia NOW! before the next election so that ALL those that contributed to the war in one way or the other will be punished for their crimes.

      To hold Charles Taylor responsible for the crimes committed in SL instead of Liberia is the ultimate injustice that the people of Liberia do not deserve.

  4. There are thousands of documentary and photo evidences about human skulls and other body parts being displayed at NPFL check post. Magazine, newspaper, and other periodicals can attest to this fact. This witness is a bad liar, not creditable on the witness stand. This was a major issue in the human rights global community during the NPFL incursion.

    1. Aye Justice,
      We didn’t see ONE PICTURE of the thousands you are speaking of when the prosecutors had their term ooohhh…..WHY I wonder Justice??

      This case is over…….

    2. Justice Lib,
      why did you not provide the prosecution with those thousands of photographs to help them prove their case as they are in serious need of credible evidence at this time. They have not been able to substantiate that allegation during the whole duration of their case. they only base that allegation on the testimony of Zigzag Marzah a self acclaimed carnibal and mass murderer and a newspaper article. if the evidence are so many why did the prosecution not provide at least one authentic photograph to show the intestines and skulls theyallege were displayed at those checkpoints?

  5. Justice LIB,

    We must then wonder why the prosecution never showed these thousands of documentary and photo evidence which you claim to have seen.

    1. Aki,
      good question. The prosecution knows very well why they did not show pictures, which would have been proof of the allegation. Even I can figure it out.

      1. Ken,
        I repect your response It is honorable of you not to make excuses when the answer is unknown.

        Cheers !.

  6. Look Justice LIB, I lived in NPFL controlled areas at the war time and I never saw NPFL displaying human skull and intestine at check points. What I saw was soldiers demanding for food stuff. You are talking about magazine, but I am talking about eyes witness. If you hate someone, don’t go beyond to lie.

    I never saw NPFL soldiers cutting off people legs and hands.

  7. LIAR LIAR pants on FIRE, why does he want to lie for the beast. The greedy so called African, he claim he was liberating LIberia, all we saw was terror, innocent lives taken away for the sake of one man’s greed. This man makes me sick. Here comes another Mothers Day for those of us who lost our mothers during his terror campaign. What a monster.

    1. John, how are u?
      Sorry man, u lost your mama in that Civil War!
      All of us have reasons to hate Taylor, u know; but we must not hate him because other do for whatsoever reason they have. I personal don’t like this case because it is brainless, and to my knowledge it was over long time. For how long will it take to undress justice with all of the mighty accounts presented to do so? Let the man go, and charge him for something he can pay for! There are many children in the market places of Tabou and San Pedro, they like u and I deserve to see justice naked for all the lost hopes given to them as the result of Taylor’s Liberia Liberation. let put this case aside and call CT for some questioning, maybe he’ll tell us who sent him to cause us disasters! But for SL, I don’t think he should be held responsible because he’s not.

    2. John,
      Stop your WHINNING please…there isn’t a single Liberian who was not hurt from the wars in Liberia….including Mr. Taylor. His father was killed by gov’t troop.

      Maybe you believe he is on trial for Liberia…NO and HELL NO!!!. This case is about Sierra Leone. And if the evidences are NOT there to convict….FREE THE MAN. Liberia awaits if we the Liberian have the balls to prosecute.

    3. John Thomson are you frustrated?
      Sick? go to hospital and get treatiment. one thing i notice here is that some of you guys prefered lies against Mr Taylor than true, if you talk about human skull been display than i saw that in the BTC camp a human heart and a skull calling it a rebel commander’s skull and heart that some AFL soldiers said they will eat it inorder to get stronger (i said some because there are some very good and trained AFL soldier). i also saw skulls and interstings being displayed at the clay check point in bomi county, Maybe some of you like John thompson who is already calling President Taylor a monster is not in the the position to tell me about NPFL displaying human skull and check point with human interesting.
      And let me draw your attention to something very important that you don’t know, do you know that the clip about war in liberia is stay being shown on CNN, BBC and other international news network when ever Liberia is mension? but the war ended since nine years ago. justice Lib, you are talking about pictures, it is sad that you might have been a 5 years old child at the time of the crisis and just woke up and started seeing pictures, maybe you need to look back and visit LIB.

  8. We have to fair here even if the other side isn’t! I saw human skulls display in NPFL Controlled area during the war but not at check points. I didn’t see any human intestines displayed in NPFL controlled areas- at least I will say areas I did travel.
    But the human skulls I saw displayed were displayed on an NPFL vehicle and it was place over the from bumber. But to say that I saw such at NPFL check points, I will be telling a lie! I did travel by foot from Monrovia to Gbanga and there were hundreds of NPFL check points along the road but I didn’t come accross such a display.

    Even as that, it doesn’t prove the quilt of Mr. Taylor for Sierra Leone!

  9. Hi Ken — we received a comment from you on May 4 at 6:53pm which unfortunately I cannot publish because it doesn’t meet our policy for comments. Would you mind removing the last sentence so it does not focus on another reader and resubmitting? I will then be happy to publish it.

    1. Hi Ken — I did not realize your last sentence in the post was a question. Would you mind reformulating it? And when you do so, might you also reforumate your post of May 5 at 7:07pm? Our policy for publishing comments is to focus on issues arising in the trial, and not on other individual and specific readers. If a comment does not fit with that policy, we cannot post it. To be on the safe side in commneting, I encourage all readers to stick to the substance of the issues. You can read about our policy here to see what we can and cannot publish in case it is helpful:

      Thanks in advance for your understanding, Ken

  10. This witness’ testimony is troubling to many Liberians including me who saw skeleton remains especially skulls at NFFL gates. If he did not see skulls, does that mean those skulls were not there? No!

    For many Liberians who were terrorized and coerced into subjugation (call it fear control by the NPFL’s leadership) by the display of human skulls, what this claim means it that those Liberians were hallucinating and did not see any skulls. Well, to advance this argument, this witness has to falsify another true: footages of human skulls on documentary films on the Liberian civil. To falsify this true he has to argue that those documented footages showing remains of human skulls at NPFL’s gates during CT’s march on Monrovia in 1990 are ‘technological hallucination’ or camera trick. Right?

    This witness is bold! What a joke!


    1. Hi Davenport,

      This testimony brings up an interesting point — that is Mr. Taylor’s own response to this allegation of skulls and intestines at checkpoints. Readers might be interested in going back and comparing what he had to say about Zig Zag Marzah’s testimony (the prosecution witness who brought up this issue of skulls and intestines at checkpoints). Here is the relevant extract from how we reported it on July 16, 2009, which you can find here:

      Responding to prosecution evidence that NPFL rebels displayed human heads on check points, Taylor said he saw human skulls displayed by rebels at check points, but after investigation, found they were skulls of enemy combatants killed in battle. Taylor admitted that skulls at checkpoints could “instill fear” but he simply saw them as a symbols.

      “I saw nothing wrong with using skulls,” Taylor told the Special Court. “It’s a blatant diabolical lie that I, Charles Ghankay Taylor, or anyone…..would drive by a human head or intestine.”

      1. Yes, Tracey.

        You got it right. Thanks for the link.

        I guess this witness’ claim is diametrically contradicting to Taylor’s.


  11. Tracey,
    Mr. Taylor did say he saw NPFL rebels displayed “human skulls” on check points. A human skull and a “human head” are two different thing.

    1. Hi Ken — Mr. Taylor also makes that distinction in his testimony.

  12. Someone said that this still does not prove that Taylor is guilty, and maybe that may be correct but what this prove is that the defense witnesses have not gotten their stories straight, are consistently contradicting each other and are telling different stories at different times about the exact same event, which I believe raises a red flag for judges. These judges are not dumb, they can see clearly that the witnesses are telling different stories about the same event and that can be interpreted not favorably for the defense.

    1. Ms. Teage,
      This only prove the independence of the witnesses. As a witness, you will not see or hear everything, especially in war situation, instead, you will testify base on what you saw and know not on what someone have said. For example, I am a professional Soldier and I some times see some of my friends telling stories of what they didn’t see or do!
      Some of them are saying these things so others can view them as being tough while others are saying it out fear so they can’t be send to the war zone! Does that mean that they are telling the true? Of course not! Therefore, a witness shoudn’t testify base on they say and that’s what many of the prosecution witnesses have done in this case. Like when I got deployed to Iraq in March of 2004, there was a guy who was my Team Leader right before we got deployed. When we got to Iraq, he was move to work at our Battalion headquater; therefore, he never went outside the wire ( base) for the 12 Months long deployment.
      After he got promoted and got a platton Sergeant position, he has been telling his Soldiers all these false stories about how he was the only Squad Leader who conducted 4 Combat missions in Bagdad per day, I mean so many false stories.
      So if you was to ask me about what he did during our deployment in 2004, I will tell you something different than what he had told his Soldiers and if you ask the Soldiers to whom he has been talking, they will tell you something different. Does that mean that I am telling a lie?So, you have to be very careful when someone testifying and saying someone told me or I heard someone say!

      1. Dear Fallah — I received a comment from you on May 7 at 6:06pm. You make valid points, but I must ask that you please resubmit and take the focus off another reader and keep it on the issues trial in order to keep with our policy here. I will happily publish it once you do.
        With appreciation in advance for your understanding, as always,

  13. What is contradiction? sometimes we have to analyse situations, one witness said Taylor did not visit and the other said he did visit. Notice that one of them though testifying for Mr. Taylor was not on his training camp in Libya. I tend to believe the one that was directly with Mr. Taylor. Shame on you critics!

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