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.
For the third day, the prosecution cross-examined defense witness Sam Flomo Kolleh (a.k.a. Sam Mustapha Karome), a Liberian member of the Sierra Leonean Revolutionary United Front (RUF). As the prosecution sought to connect the accused Charles Taylor to the war and atrocities in Sierra Leone, the witness continued to deny any connection.
Weapons Transport to Liberia from Sierra Leone
In 2000, the RUF captured 500 UNAMSIL (United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone) soldiers with their weapons. The prosecution maintains the RUF transported the weapons from Sierra Leone to Liberia for Mr. Charles Taylor. Mr. Kolleh said he was not aware of it, and he was not personally involved in any such transport.
At the end of the war, the RUF was ordered to disarm and turn over all weapons to UNAMSIL and ECOMOG (Economic Community of West Africa Monitoring Group). Mr. Kolleh was in charge of collecting weapons from RUF soldiers in Kailahun. According to UN documents, the RUF had turned over very few weapons by September 2001. Nevertheless, Mr. Kolleh insisted he was unaware of any captured weapons that were not returned from Kailahun. Nor did he know anything about hostage taking despite being a senior officer.
Earlier, the witness testified it was physically impossible to transport heavy weapons from Sierra Leone to Liberia because a ferry over the river was not in operation. To challenge this the prosecutor, Nicholas Koumjian, read from the testimony of prior witnesses stating that weapons were stripped from vehicles and transported separately on orders from Issa Sesay, RUF commander. UN Security Council documents also reported that vehicles had been stripped of weapons. This makes them much lighter and easier to transport, the prosecutor suggested. Again, the witness said he knew nothing about it. When one of the judges offered that perhaps weapons could not be transported across the border because Pakistani troops were there, Mr. Kolleh readily agreed. When the judge then asked why he had never said so before, he received no satisfactory answer.
Showing a photograph of a large gun said to be a Howitzer, Mr. Koumjian asked if it was possible to transport by canoe, the method of transport used by Mr. Kolleh according to his testimony. The witness said it was not. However, Charles Taylor testified earlier that the RUF brought the Howitzer to him from Foday Sankoh, the prosecutor pointed out. The witness did not agree.
Mr. Koumjian also attempted to have Mr. Kolleh agree that weapons came to Sierra Leone from Liberia as well as vice versa. Issa Sesay had testified that Sam Bockarie brought ammunition from Liberia to Sierra Leone by a 10 wheel truck. If a 10 wheel truck could cross from Liberia to Sierra Leone, heavy weapons dismantled from vehicles and hidden among sacks of rice on pick up trucks could cross the other way.
AFL and RUF Attack on Guinea
The prosecutor turned to the RUF’s attack on Guinea, putting to the witness that the attack was made by a combined force of RUF and Charles Taylor’s Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). Mr. Kolleh agreed that both attacked Guinea but insisted they acted separately. While stating he did not participate in the attack, he said he was in the area where he heard sounds indicating the AFL had joined the attack already begun by the RUF. Nor did he change his testimony when told that John Vincent, a member of Charles Taylor’s Special Security Service (SSS), had testified that the RUF and AFL attacked Guinea together after the Lome Peace Accords.
Other witnesses, according to Mr. Koumjian, testified that Charles Taylor ordered Issa Sesay to attack Guinea. Reasons given varied from the need to get arms into Guinea before any disarmament to keeping open a route for reinforcements.
Small Boys Unit and Small Girls Unit
As he had yesterday, the prosecutor asked Mr. Kolleh about the SBUs (Small Boys Unit). They were not armed and only helped commanders with domestic duties, he responded. From “Footpaths to Democracy” written by a doctor who accompanied the witness in escorting hostages to the border, the prosecutor read: “The RUF trained and armed a large number of men and women, including elderly, youth, children, and the disabled.” Mr. Kolleh responded that the RUF gauged the age of children by their height and trained only those who “appeared” older than 15 years. In response, the prosecution quoted from the RUF anthem: “Go and tell my parents they will see me no more,” then quoted a defense witness also an RUF member, stating the RUF armed children from 10 and up. The whole world knew it, this previous witness testified. Mr. Kolleh continued to deny the RUF’s use of children.
Nor did he change his testimony when Mr. Koumjian asked him about a boy named Musa who was with him at the time. Mr. Kolleh replied that Musa is 30 years old or more now and was very big at the time. If he is 30 now, the prosecutor noted, he would have been 14 then. He and another youth named Saar or Sahr helped him carry things when he was a transporter, the witness said. They were not on the front line. They were his bodyguards. Denying they were SBU, he said only Saar carried a weapon.
Death of Sam Bockarie
The prosecutor turned to the defense summary of the topics Mr. Kolleh would testify about. As required by tribunal rule, the defense provided the summary to the prosecution prior to Mr. Kolleh’s testimony. While it stated he would discuss the death of Sam Bockarie (a.k.a. Mosquito), he had not. The prosecution gave him the opportunity to do so.
The witness said that in 2006 Pa Maribo (another Vanguard) told him how Mosquito died. Benjamin Yeaten, former Director of the SSS, took Mr. Bockarie’s wife to the border claiming that her husband wanted to see her. After two days they heard Mosquito, his wife, and children had been killed. Though Mosquito was his friend, Mr. Kolleh did not ask who killed him or the circumstances of his death, the prosecutor noted, implying that he already knew.
Mr. Koumjian pointed out that other RUF colleagues were killed in Liberia at the same time – perhaps as a warning to keep quiet about Liberia’s part in the war and atrocities. Mr. Kolleh said RUF members were not frightened because Mr. Taylor’s Chief of Security (Benjamin Yeaten) had allegedly killed Mr. Bockarie.
Around this time, Issa Sesay arrested the witness, tying his elbows behind him in a very painful position. Mr. Kolleh claimed that Mr. Sesay did it because “they were not satisfied with me.” Later, Mr. Sesay himself was arrested. Mr. Bockarie was killed two months later. Before that, however, Mr. Yeaten allegedly killed Superman (a.k.a. Dennis Mingo), Pa Maribo told Mr. Kolleh. Despite these allegations against Yeaten, Charles Taylor told the prosecutor earlier that he would hire him again if he returned to power.
Combined Forces Attack Freetown
Mr. Koumjian played part of a BBC radio interview with Colonel FAT Sesay on the day the RUF took Freetown, January 6, 1999. During the interview, Col. Sesay says he has entered Freetown and is calling from the state house. He identifies the invaders as “the combined forces of the AFL and the RUF” and says they met no resistance on entering the city. His forces, led by Brigadier TAB Yaya were on their way to capture Lungi, site of the airport and necessary for reinforcements. Mr. Kolleh denied ever meeting Col. Sesay and insisted the forces were fighting separately.
The cross-examination of Mr. Kolleh will resume on Monday afternoon.