Cross-Examination of Last Defense Witness Continues

Dear Readers – Ms. Judith Armatta is a lawyer, journalist, and human rights advocate who has previously monitored the trial of Slobodan Milosevic on behalf of the Coalition for International Justice.  She will be reporting on the trial of Charles Taylor this week in place of our regular monitor, Mr. Alpha Sesay.  We hope you find her reports helpful. 

Today at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the prosecution continued cross-examination of Sam Flomo Kolleh, a Liberian member of Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF), attacking the witness’s credibility while Mr. Kolleh denied there was a connection between himself and the RUF with Charles Taylor and Liberia. Mr. Kolleh is the last witness for the accused.

Attempting to expose Mr. Kolleh’s motives and loyalties, the prosecution pressed him on his reasons for associating with the RUF initially and remaining with it for 10 years.  The witness asserted both that he had no options for leaving the RUF and would have suffered serious sanctions if he had tried, but that he was not forced into joining or remaining.

Yesterday, Mr. Kolleh described his “capture” by Arthur, an officer in the NPFL (National Patriotic Front of Liberia), and his acceptance of RUF training to serve Arthur’s needs for protection. That he never returned to Arthur he explained by the fact that Arthur’s NPFL unit was deployed to a new location. He remained with the RUF for 10 years, holding positions that included MP, security chief for the entire RUF, weapons advisor, and senior officer of the RUF’s advance team while obtaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. Earlier in cross-examination, the witness testified that the RUF did not assign ranks because it was a guerilla army. Later, he acknowledged his climb through the ranks.

The prosecution seeks to prove that Charles Taylor directed, encouraged, or assisted the RUF and other military formations in a criminal plan to seize control of the government of Sierra Leone – and its resources, reportedly including the highest quality natural diamonds in the world – by terrorizing the civilian population through beatings, property destruction, looting, rape, sexual slavery, forced labor, and killings. As president of Liberia, Taylor de jure (by law) controlled the NPFL, but not the Sierra Leonean RUF. The prosecution maintains that Taylor de facto controlled the RUF as well.  Mr. Taylor has denied these allegations.

Pursuing this theory, the prosecutor suggested to Mr. Kolleh that the majority of RUF trainees he trained with were Liberians. The witness responded he could not tell the difference. Confronted by testimony of John Vincent, a member of Charles Taylor’s Special Security Service, that 252 of 328 RUF trainees were Liberians, Mr. Kolleh responded that he did not check, so he could not verify Mr. Vincent’s testimony. Issa Sesay, a former Liberian radio operator, who appeared earlier this year on behalf of Mr. Taylor, also testified that the majority were Liberian.

Despite Mr. Kolleh’s high position and acknowledged closeness to Sierra Leonean rebel leaders such as Sam “Mosquito” Bockarie, his knowledge of RUF affairs and notorious incidents was often nonexistent under the prosecution’s cross-examination. In one instance, he told the court he could not remember whether or not he had killed anyone or been involved in killing.

He responded to the prosecutor’s questions about massacres that occurred in areas where he held responsible positions by claiming he was ill, injured, or somewhere else. The prosecutor read the testimony of a protected witness in the trial of Issa Sesay, stating that Sam Kolleh was brigade commander in the Kailahun District when the Kailahun massacre happened. Mr. Kolleh said he was neither the brigade commander nor was he present at the time of the massacre. Another protected witness testified that Mr. Kolleh killed 10 people as ordered by Sam Bockerie (a.k.a. Mosquito), then passed on the order to execute another 55. Mr. Kolleh asserted he knew nothing about the massacre and was not involved.

In 2003, Mr. Kolleh told both the prosecutor’s investigators and the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission that his name was Sam Mustapha Karoma, a name recognized as Sierra Leonean. Twice the prosecutor suggested to the witness that he had falsified his identity, seeking to keep his Liberian nationality secret, because he was an agent of Charles Taylor, who was then president of Liberia. Mr. Kolleh vehemently denied this assertion. The witness continued to state that he changed his name because he feared being arrested by the Special Court. He also alleged that the prosecution’s investigator told him he could change whatever he wanted as long as he said what they wanted him to say (i.e. that Mr. Taylor provided the RUF with arms in exchange for diamonds).

The prosecution proposed that Mr. Kolleh’s visit to John Vincent in Monrovia, Liberia after the prosecution investigators first interviewed him in 2003 was evidence Mr. Kolleh was an agent for Charles Taylor. The witness denied it and backtracked on his agreement that he had made the visit at all.

Toward the end of the day, the prosecutor turned to the subject of RUF disarmament at the end of the war. Mr. Kolleh was in charge of disarmament in Kailahun. Prosecutors asked what happened to the heavy weapons the RUF had taken from UNOMIL. The witness said he did not know. He insisted they could not have been taken to Liberia, as the prosecutor suggested, because they were too heavy to transport across a river where the ferry was not working.

The cross-examination of Sam Kolleh will continue tomorrow, followed by redirect examination, if any.


  1. Judith,
    The witness never backed track on his statement that he had visited John Vincent. The prosecution kept on saying it was in 2003 this visit occured. Mr. Kolleh said it was in 2005.

    1. The prosecution tried to mislead the court about the witnesses evidence but unfortunately for them, the court records speaks for itself.

  2. According to Sam Kolleh,a.k.a. Sam Mustapha Karoma, RUF did not assign ranks because it was a ‘guerilla’ army, but later acknowledging that, indeed, he climbed through the ranks, after being squeezed with questions from Prosecution.
    MEANING: RUF was so disorganized that there were no ‘chain of command’ and, thus, making it seem as a bunch of ‘rag-tag criminals, who, according to Sam Kolleh, charles taylor, could have possibly have control, nor influence, over!
    FACT: It is most likely that RUF had a ‘centrla command and control’ either from Sankoh or close associates within or without Sierra Leone, and, In fact, these associates shared responsibilities for crimes committed by these rag tags criminals.
    Therefore, Sam appears to not only being a pathological liar, according to his testimonies, but one Liberia needs to put on the list for war crimes trial of Liberia, and who should be prosecuted accordingly!

    1. @fallah
      “Sam appears to not only being a pathological liar, according to his testimonies, but one Liberia needs to put on the list for war crimes trial of Liberia, and who should be prosecuted accordingly”!

      Well Fallah,take a minute and listen to yourself…maybe you meant the other way round!!!

      Why should this witness be put on the list for war crime trial in Liberia is beyond me….i supposed its the same logic been used in this Mr Taylor trial….he may have committed some crimes in Liberia but let just try him for crimes he did not commit in Sierra Leone.

      Total mockery of justice!!!!Westerners in general relentlessly play with the intelligent of (Older)africans that allowed them.What sort of justice do these outdated immoralist trying to bring to our people.Supported by their desperate,unconsciencious lack of forsight buffoons in africa.

      P-S..This is all fun and games for these prosecutors,playing with the feelings of the simple minds in africa.

  3. Mr. Kolleh’s visit to John Vincent in Monrovia after the prosecution investigators first interviewed who, Mr. Kolleh or John Vincent in 2003?

    The cross examination is taking long then the direct examination. The direct examination only took a couple hours I miss the hold session. The prosecution seems to be delaying the end of the trial. They are going over the RUF trial, putting up bizarre allegations without proof or follow-up and they are trying to get Mr. Kolleh to back up some of those potential lies their witnesses have told in court.

    1. You are right, ken, that direct examination took hours, where as the cross is taking days. the reason is, perhaps, defense did not want to look silly in repeating all the same leading questions as had been its pattern in the trial.For example; “kolleh, did you ever see taylor at camp Naama, physically, directing the training or having conversation with sankoh about how many Liberian defectors were training with sankoh?” you see, the defense has reflection on how stupid it had conducted its trial, with the sole intention being, perhaps, to buy time until now, three years later, to come to conclusion! Justice delayed is Justice denied, Ken!

    1. Dear cen,

      Some may reflect on Ralph Bunche, a man of color; who was involved in drafting the United Nations Charter; along with Eleanor Roosevelt who is considered instrumental in the creation and adoption of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.; as responsible for these Human Rights trials around the world.

      What we are witnessing here with Mr. Taylor’s trial; is the brain child of Mr. Bunche. Legend has it that it was Mr. Bunche who insisted that the Declaration of Human Rights be added to the United Nations Charter because he believed it was inessential protection for people of color.
      I realize this does not relate directly to this trial; it relates to all trials that allege violation of human rights and I think people of color should be informed of this fact.

      Some has stated that he was on the committee that formed the CIA.

      See link:

      Take care,


  4. Welcome Judith to this important focus point. We wish you well as we all move towards the conclusion of this make up case against former President Taylor.

    Harris K Johnson

  5. 11-5-2010

    I copied the following from the link noted at the end.

    …While the relationship
    between the Commission and the Special Court was mostly cordial, it did falter
    following the refusal of the Special Court to permit the Commission to hold
    public hearings with the detainees held in its custody….

    …28. The Commission holds that the right to the truth is inalienable. This right
    should be upheld both in national and international law. It is the exploration of
    the wider truth through broad-based participation that permits a nation to
    examine itself honestly….

    In my opinion, truer words can not be underscored enough. The prosecution of a few in the manner that the SCSL has under taken has placed not just Sl but other developing countires at greater risk for uncivil wars. How many special courts have to materialize before we learn that they have no impact on the greed and ignorance that fuels uncivil wars. Sudan is a prime example. Sudan is primed for another conflict because we have failed to deal with the TRUTH about the why and how these wars occur.
    We have failed to hold accountable and punish those who benfit the MOST from these wars. “those who bear the greatest responsibility ” is pure rhetoric. The most useful tool at getting to the truth(TRC) was in fact compromised by the SCSL.
    I was stunned to learn that the statements made at the TRC could be used to impeach witnesses at the SCSL. Bravo, SCSL, now where does that leave any future TRC’s?

    After reading some of the SCSL trial transcripts, I was equally stunned at the constant interference and micro managing of the trials by the judges.
    In closing, I have no sympathy for those who committed the heinous acts against the people of SL. However, I take exception to the form and manner of the SCSL and the rhetoric that these convictions will deter any furture atrocities. As cited in my previous posts, women and girls continue to be brutalized in a post war SL. In my humble opinion, the millons used to convict the “those who bear the most responsibility” would have been better used to treat and prevent the atrocities still occurring in SL today.

  6. Ms. Grossman,

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to recall that you are a graduate scholar at Harvard. Judging from your prior post, I strongly weighed you analysis and synthesis. Now for you not to be able to evaluate the importance of this witness to this trial makes me curious.

    However, to comment on your concern, the defense has more or less completed its array of witnesses. What Griffiths and team are doing now is to expose the prosecution’s misdeal in the administration of justice and handling of trial. The message that the Griffiths team is sending here is that the prosecution was involved in quid pro quo practices. You scratch my back and I scratch yours. In other words you give me information and I give you money and protection.

    In my view this is unacceptable in legal practice. If it happened in one instance we can extrapolate to other instances.

    I hope this helped.

  7. Judge Lussick today lost his cool – again. He attacked Mr Kolleh on a point that the Judge had clearly misunderstood. Displaying his dislike for the witness in this way shows his bias.

    1. 11-5-2010

      I agree, that Judge Lussick’s conduct revealed not only his bias but his lack of professionalism.
      Additionally, I thought the question posed to the witness by the other Judge under the guise of seeking clarity was disingenuous. The Judge sought to cross examine the witness as if he was in fact the prosecutor.
      I thought I would fall out of my chair when Kolleh pulled pictures out of his pocket. None of the judges in the name of clarity or justice asked to see the pictures. Go figure….

    2. Jenniferfh,
      You have made the point I have been trying to make all along. Justice Lusick is of the view that the witness is lieing but he was not around when the witness began his testimony so he only met part of the witness’s testimony hence his lack of understanding of the context in which the witness said he lied about his previous testimonies.

      Mr Koumjian has been making a lot of noise about the fact that the witness lied about his identity to the prosecution investigators however, the prosecution cannot in good faith claim they do not know the true identity of this witness all along. infact available evidence before the court (which the court took into consideration when it dismissed a prosecution motion for disclosure of the witness statements) shows that the prosecution knew all along the REAL identity of this witness because they were the ones who disclosed materials relating to his fake name to the defence in response to a request the defence made in his real name.

  8. Hey Guys,

    I have been absent for some time now, but happy that you were able to keep the blog alive. I was just wondering if some legal minded persons who visit this site can throw some light on why the prosecution withheld evidence of 175 pages of transcript from the defense. What is the implication on this case. Are there other information being withheld? How can we determine that the prosecution has disclosed all that it is to be disclosed under the law. Has any rule of evidence been broken?

    I recall the Duke University alleged case of rape where the prosecution withheld information from the defense and the prosecutor was disbarred. This is serious matter in the legal arena. Some please help me.

    1. 11-5-2010
      @ Adrew
      This case is being held in an “international court” apparently where the court and it’s officers operate without impunity.

      In the USA, the court and it’s officers operate with impunity.

  9. I thought the comments were meant to be fair and balanced. I have only started listening to life proceedings and the summary I have read above looks more like an opinion rather than summary. I am not on CT or anyone’s side rather than the truth. Mr Kolleh clearly has beemn part of atrocities but it is clear that he is more credible than he is being described in this summary of testimony. I thought this was about linking CT with RUF atrocities and diamonds. Considering Mr Kolleh was once a potential witness for the prosecutor not much is being said in cross about CT’s link with RUF and/or diamonds. Am I missing something?

    1. That is the point Babs, the prosecution has been stuck in their stride because the defence had infact conducted the cross examination of this witness during his evidence in chief. That is why Mr Koumjian has been finding it difficult to cross examine the witness in my view, he has been wasting the courts time.

  10. The Trial Chamber has taken 10 working days from October 22, 2010, and has not produced its decision on Defence Motion Requesting an Investigation into Contempt Of Court by the Office of the Prosecution and Its Investigators. This motion has been pending since September 24, 2010; some 42 days.

    It would seem as though if they have determined that the motion would be dismissed in its entirety they would have provided the defense with their reasons by now; they obviously must have problems drawing up that opinion. Just my opinion; naturally.


    1. 11-5-2010

      lol… we love to hear your opinions. In my opinion, the judges are waiting on orders on how to proceed with the motion.
      peace and blessings

      1. Dear cen,

        The judges here are with the UN and the UN drafted these charges against Mr. Taylor and others in 2000. Given the evidence presented by the defense it will be difficult for any unjust court to dismiss such evidence and be able to hold face with the world.

        It is terrifying to think the world court is willing to usurp the Roman Statutes and convict and confine a human being without due process! That would place them in the same picture as they place Mr. Taylor and others.

        Can we really receive a fair trial at the UN?

        You see, we have been formed by the Global Unitary State to fear that which we cannot see and conform to that which they speak; the UN is that State these days!

        I do not purport that crime is just; just we are to observe how those we consider unjust are drought to justice by conforming to the rule of law.

        Take care,


        See link:

        1. 11-9-2010
          The question regarding whether a fair trial can be had by the ICC and the various tribunals under them is pressing. As you know, the allegations that witnesses have been intimidated and paid to give testimony is serious. I’m not sure if everyone posting here cares or fully understands the bigger picture behind the UN / ICC being compromised in this manner.
          I stand by my statement regarding Mr. Kolleh. I find him more credible than any witness that did not testify in open court without disguise or distortion.
          In closing, the prosecution’s case was lost long before Mr. Kolleh took the stand. The only thing left is whether the judges will have the courage and fidelity to pass a just verdict. What is just for any defendant may or may not be just for the victim(s)
          My friend, only time will tell?
          peace and blessings

    2. Sekou,
      I think that the judges do not want to stop the trial now. This just my thought, but I believe a mistrial and investigation of the prosecution will come about during the Oral Arguments process.

      I do not know if you have read the transcript of Mr. Kolleh’s direct-examination yet especially the part when Mr. Munyard take Mr. Kolleh through his interview transcript with the prosecution and what he has told the court. I will say this, Mr. Kolleh interview transcript with the prosecution dismantle the prosecution case against Mr. Taylor right in front of them in the interview room of the OTP. I see why Mr. Kolleh was offered $90,000USD to implicate Mr. Taylor. If they has offer 2-3 millions USD, they might would have had a chance for him to implicate Mr. Taylor. However, David Crane frightened Mr. Kolleh so bad with prison if he did not tell the truth about Mr. Taylor diamond for arm trade with the RUF, that he told the truth. The prosecution would have been better off it they had some one to loose or destroy that interview transcript like DCT032 statement was lost or destroyed.

      1. Dear Ken,

        I have not had the opportunity to read all of Mr. Kolleh’s testimony; and I will say that global witness destroyed DCT-097’s testimony and the prosecution admits that they gave him nearly $30,000 for the information he gave them.

        The question as to whether the court will publish their decision during oral argument may pose a problem for the defense since the defense needs that decision to prepare for closing argument themselves.

        The order of witnesses for the defense was brilliantly composed; as it dismantle the prosecution’s case against Mr. Taylor at the eve of the judgment. To have presented this witness earlier his testimony would have been lose in the minds of the Trail Chamber and the most critical hour in a trial is just prior to judgment; do you agree Lawyers?

        I do believe the court presents an obstacle by allowing 600 pages to be composed in the closing brief. To humanly decipher that must information accurately would transform these judges into a superhuman. I would hope the defense will be concise and precise in their argument.

        The integrity of the prosecution’s case has been demolished by DCT-097 evidence and Mr. Kolleh’s testimony. For the prosecution to have handled these individuals this way; how can the prosecution deny the claim that it purchased all of its false information against Mr. Taylor?

        These are just my views of course.


        1. 11-9-2010
          @ Sekou

          LOL…yes the defense’s timing was brilliant! Win, lose or draw, Mr. Grifiths can not be denied his due as a great lawyer.

Comments are closed.