Prosecutors today sought to impeach the credibility of Charles Taylor’s defense witness by pointing out that he has not been truthful about how he was recruited into Mr. Taylor’s Liberian rebel group, as well as the positions he claims to have held in the rebel group during the early days of the Liberian conflict.
Timan Edward Zammy, a former member of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) has spent more than a week testifying for Mr. Taylor, focusing his testimony 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 Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group–a group which 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 today, prosecutors focused mainly on pointing out areas in the witness’s testimony where they believe he has not been truthful.
One area of focus today 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.
“Yanks Smythe does not mention you as sixth Battalion commander,” Ms. Howarth told the witness.
“Yes, he does not mention me but I was sixth Battalion commander in 1991. Maybe he does not know,” Mr. Zammy said.
In Mr. Smythe’s testimony, he said that the sixth Battalion commander in 1991 was Mr. Oliver Varney. Mr. Zammy insisted that Mr. Smythe probably made a mistake, insisting that he succeeded Mr. Varney as the sixth Battalion commander.
Another defense witness Mr. Mineh also testified that Mr. Varney was sixth Battalion commander. Mr. Zammy insisted that these witnesses were mistaken.
“This is a mistake. It was in 1990 that Oliver Varney was Battalion Commander and I succeeded him,” the witness said.
Reading from a January 2010 transcript, Ms. Howarth again 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?” Mr. 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.
Ms. Howarth also pointed out to the witness that he failed to tell the TRC that he served as sixth Battalion of the NPFL and that when he made statements to defense lawyers in Liberia, he also did not tell them that he occupied such a position. The witness explained that at the TRC, they did not ask him about any command positions that he occupied and that when he spoke with defense lawyers, he told them that he indeed was the sixth Battalion commander in 1991.
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.
Mr. Zammy’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.