The widow of Charles Taylor’s former Vice President today testified that she was never told that her husband died from torture administered by Liberian security forces on Mr. Taylor’s orders. Her husband’s serious illness, the witness said, was instead the cause of his death.
Enoch Dogolea was Mr. Taylor’s Vice President when he (Taylor) became President of Liberia in 1997. In 2000, Mr. Dogolea died in neighboring Ivory Coast while there for medical treatment. After his death, reports emerged that his sickness was as a result of being beaten by Mr. Taylor’s security forces based on the orders of the former Liberian President. In March 2008, Joseph “Zig Zag” Marzah, a former member of Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) who testified against Mr. Taylor in The Hague told the Special Court for Sierra Leone that Mr. Dogolea had been beaten to the point of death.
“He was beaten up almost to the point of death…he died as a result of the beatings. I also took part in those beatings,” Mr. Marzah had said.
Today, Mr. Dogolea’s surviving wife, Regina Mehn Dogolea, took the witness stand as Mr. Taylor’s 17th witness, telling the court that as far as she knew, her husband had died because he was seriously ill. She said that neither her husband, nor any other person, had ever told her that Mr. Dogolea had been beaten on Mr. Taylor’s orders.
“Myself I am surprised to hear this because since my husband died ten years ago, nobody has come out to tell me this. Within Monrovia, my husband never slept out for a day or two and later to come and tell me that someone had beaten him up,” Mrs. Dogolea told the court.
“I was bathing him and I never saw anything wrong with him, no marks. I did not see any marks on his body,” she added.
Mrs. Dogolea explained to the court that when her husband became ill, he had called his brothers who took him to a nearby bush and had offered traditional medicines to him. She said that as a woman, they did not allow her to be present where the traditional treatment was offered to her husband.
“They said it was a traditional thing, a woman cannot be there so they took him to the bush,” she said.
After three hours, Mrs. Dogolea said they sent to call her. When she got there, her husband was vomiting and she asked that he be taken to the house. At this point, Mr. Taylor sent a helicopter to take Mr. Dogolea to the hospital, the witness said.
While at the hospital in the Ivorian capital Abidjan, Mrs. Dogolea said the doctor informed her that her husband’s liver had been damaged.
“Then he died now,” she told the court.
Asked by Justice Julia Sebutinde whether she ever asked the hospital authorities to give her a report of what her husband died of, the witness said “no.”
As defense lawyers concluded her direct-examination, prosecutors questioned the witness about a press release she issued in Liberia relating to evidence at the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court for Sierra Leone relating to the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death.
In the press release, Mrs. Dogolea questioned witnesses’ accounts at both the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in The Hague about the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death, saying that as far as she knew, her husband was sick and that was the cause of his death. Prosecutors in cross-examining the witness questioned her whether she had received any assistance in writing the press release or whether she had written it only after meeting with defense lawyers. The witness insisted that she had issued the release only with the help of her 21 year old step-daughter, who at that tine was in the twelfth grade.
“Are you saying that your 21 year old step-daughter who was in the twelfth grade drafted this statement?” Justice Sebutinde asked, wanting to be more certain.
In response, the witness said “yes.”
Prosecution counsel, Katherine Howarth, read from a January 2008 Liberian newspaper which quoted an account given at the TRC regarding Mr. Dogolea’s death.
“Bodyguards of Charles Taylor laid the former Vice President into mattresses and tortured him on the orders of Charles Taylor. He [Taylor] said the strategy of laying somebody in mattresses was to cover up any evidence of torture and not to see any body marks,” the January 2008 newspaper stated.
Ms. Howarth also read from a June 2000 article in a Sierra Leonean newspaper titled “Liberia’s VP killed for Sa Lone.” The article indicated that Mr. Dogolea had been killed because he had policy disagreements with Mr. Taylor about the Liberian government’s support for Sierra Leonean rebels.
Asked whether it was true that her husband was opposed to Mr. Taylor’s support for rebel forces in Sierra Leone, Mrs. Dogolea said: “I told you I do not know anything about it.
“You know the man was going for peace talks and conferences and I was not behind him whereever he went and he did not tell me,” she said.
“You yourself know that in Africa, women do not really control their husbands, so any where they go you do not go with them, if they do not tell you their thing, you will not know about it,” she added.
The witness insisted that she could not tell whether her husband was beaten because the former Vice President had never told her so.
Defense lawyers indicated their readiness to re-examine the witness after she concluded her cross-examination but as the court was ready to adjourn for the day, the re-examination of the witness is set for Monday.