Prosecutors today concluded the cross-examination of Charles Taylor’s 20th defense witness, a Liberian national who served as a radio operator in the Special Security Services (SSS) of Mr. Taylor’s government in Liberia.
The witness, DCT-008, in his cross-examination disagreed with prosecutors on several issues, including the manner in which the disarmament of fighting forces was conducted in Liberia, allegations of Mr. Taylor’s reliance on militias rather than the Liberian army, and the relationship that existed between Revolutionary United Front (RUF) commander Sam Bockarie and SSS Director Benjamin Yeaten.
Prosecutors allege that when the disarmament process started in Liberia in the mid 1990s, Mr. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) rebel group did not turn in all their weapons, and the weapons they kept were part of those given to RUF rebels who used them to commit atrocities in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.
In his testimony today, DCT-008 insisted that the NPFL turned in all their weapons to Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) peacekeepers, who were coordinating the disarmament program in Liberia.
“I know that the NPFL disarmed. Even myself, I disarmed to ECOMOG,” the witness told the court.
When noted by the Chief Prosecutor Brenda Hollis that the NPFL turned in only fractions of their weapons, the witness responded, “To my knowledge, the NPFL turned over every weapon…it was not a joke, it was real.”
Ms. Hollis referenced a news article that quoted Mr. Taylor’s former Defense Minister Daniel Chea that the disarmament process in Liberia was a fiasco.
When this was put to the witness, he responded thus: “I believe that the NPFL fully disarmed to the peacekeepers…so if he [Chea] went on to say it was a fiasco, that was his opinion.”
“But what I know is that the disarmament went on very well, that is why we had elections.”
Ms. Hollis also asserted that because Mr. Taylor did not trust the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), he relied on private militias, which were controlled from the Executive Mansion. These militias, Ms. Hollis said, were notorious for committing crimes against civilians. The witness denied these suggestions.
“He relied on the national security of the Republic of Liberia,” the witness said, and “Charles Taylor to my knowledge never controlled any militia from the Executive Mansion,” he added.
When noted that Mr. Taylor controlled his militia groups just like the SSS, the witness said, “He never ran the SSS. The SSS were security assigned to the Executive Mansion and the first family.”
Ms. Hollis quoted Mr. Chea again, who in the same interview where he spoke about the disarmament process said, “Mr. Taylor had his own suspicions of the army, he transferred most of the duties of the army to his own militias. I thought that was a mistake.”
“President Taylor had his own disjointed militia that he ran from the Executive Mansion. Who will be in a better position to know about Charles Taylor’s militia, you or Mr. Chea,” Ms. Hollis asked the witness.
In response, he said, “To my knowledge, the president did not control militia group or militia from the Executive Mansion.”
The witness also insisted, like he has done right through his testimony, that Mr. Taylor and his government did not have any relationship with the RUF, but rather, it was SSS Director Mr. Yeaten who used his friendship with RUF commander Mr. Bockarie to trade arms and ammunition with Sierra Leonean rebels.
According to the witness, Samson Wai, a bodyguard to Mr. Yeaten was the person who coordinated efforts with Daniel Tamba (Jungle) on Mr. Yeaten’s instructions to transport arms and ammunition to the RUF. The witness has stated that Jungle was a member of the RUF, a claim which goes contrary to prosecution claims that Jungle was a member of the SSS.
In response to a suggestion from Ms. Hollis that Jungle, Samson, Mr. Yeaten, and others “were members of the SSS carrying out security duties in relation to the rebels in Sierra Leone…at the instance of Charles Taylor,” the witness said, “Jungle was not a member of the SSS. Samson was a member of the SSS and a bodyguard to Benjamin Yeaten…They did this at the instance of Benjamin Yeaten and Mr. Taylor did not know about this.”
The witness spoke extensively about radio communications that took place between Mr. Yeaten’s radio communications set in Liberia and those of RUF radio stations in Sierra Leone. When Ms. Hollis asked him whether there were no loyal radio operators who could have monitored these communications and made them known to Mr. Taylor, the witness said that such a thing never happened.
“And your story is that Benjamin Yeaten was able to do this without Mr. Taylor or anybody loyal to him knowing about it?” Ms. Hollis questioned the witness.
“I said this happened without Mr. Taylor’s knowledge,” the witness responded.
As his cross-examination was concluded, the witness denied suggestions that he has come to the court with an intention to lie and protect Mr. Taylor.
“This is not what I intended to do. This is the truth that I have come to explain to this court. It is not my version, it is reality,” he said.
Earlier in the morning, the judges issued their oral decision on the defense motion that prosecutors be ordered to disclose statements made to Global Witness by defense witness DCT-097, which defense lawyers say contain exculpatory evidence pointing to Mr. Taylor’s innocence, and that prosecutors also be made to disclose details of payments made to the witness when he was a potential prosecution witness, payments that defense lawyers say amounted to about 30,000 USD.
Delivering the judgment of the Trial Chamber, Presiding Judge Justice Julia Sebutinde ordered that the Chamber dismisses Part A of the defense application relating to the statement made by DCT-097 to Global Witness, and grants Part B of the motion regarding the payments that were made to the witness by prosecutors.
The prosecution was ordered to disclose to the defense:
a. All payments/benefits to DCT-097.
b. All documents relating to the payments.
c. Provide explanation for such payments.
As prosecutors concluded the cross-examination of DCT-008, defense lawyers commenced the re-examination of the witness few minutes before court adjourned for the day. The re-examination of the witness continues on Tuesday.