Reports that Liberian rebel forces loyal to Charles Taylor mistreated civilians during the country’s civil conflict are wrong, said a defense witness for the former Liberian president today at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Karnah Ebward Mineh, a former Liberian rebel commander, said his country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, released in December 2009, incorrectly attributed the highest number of crimes during Liberia’s civil conflict to Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group. Instead, the NPFL treated civilians well in the areas it controlled, and other fighting factions could have been responsible for atrocities attributed to the rebel group, Mr. Mineh said today.
“Yes, we saved the civilians, we welcomed them to our controlled area,” Mr. Mineh said.
“The records of abuses by the NPFL were really very high during the period that they reigned as a revolutionary group, isn’t that so?” prosecution lawyer, Mohamed Bangura asked the witness, referencing the Liberian TRC report.
“No, it never happened,” the witness responded. “If it did happen, I cannot remember. There were several groups so I cannot give account of all of the groups.”
Prosecutors argue that Mr. Taylor condoned crimes committed by his rebel group in Liberia. Similarly, they argue, Mr. Taylor knew and approved of atrocities committed by Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels — a group which Mr. Taylor is on trial for allegedly supporting during Sierra Leone’s 11 years civil conflict. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.
Mr. Mineh also denied reports that Mr. Taylor executed his own NPFL commanders who opposed his reign as NPFL leader. Anthony Menkunagbe, Oliver Varney, Sam Lato and Degbeyee Debon were executed without due process, prosecutors say. Mr. Taylor has denied these claims, saying that these NPFL members conspired to commit treason, were investigated, tried and sentenced to be executed according to the code of military conduct. Today, Mr. Mineh corroborated Mr. Taylor’s account.
“They executed them. After they have investigated them and found guilty, then the tribunal chairman gave an order. He said because they plotted, because they wanted to do evil, so after they were found guilty, they executed them,” Mr. Mineh explained.
Mr. Mineh, who has been testifying in a Liberian traditional language Gio with the use of English translators, finished his testimony today. Defense lawyers indicated they were not prepared to present another witness and would need an adjournment until Thursday when the next witness would be able to testify. The judges granted the defense request.
No proceedings will take place tomorrow and the trial of Mr. Taylor will resume Thursday.