Madam President, your Honours, thank you, and thank you, Mr Bangura, for that eloquent representation and review of the crimes committed against the people of Sierra Leone as alleged in our indictment.
This indictment, of course, accuses Mr Charles Ghankay Taylor of direct responsibility for these individual crimes. Based upon Article 6(1) of our Statute. Of course, that article deals with committing, planning, ordering, instigating, and aiding and abetting the commission of crimes. It is, as we've said earlier, a case founded as well on the idea that this plan was a common plan in which the accused participated over an extended period of time, and so in the execution of that common plan, he also was involved in planning, ordering, and instigating particular offences.
In our pre-trial brief and, to some extent, in Mr Bangura's presentation we've heard about some of the instances of ordering and instigating and planning these crimes, but I would like to focus in a little more depth with the aiding and abetting aspect of the case, because it is on this that the evidence is absolutely overwhelming.
Throughout the relevant period, the accused provided vital and substantial assistance, encouragement or support to the RUF, then to the Junta, and finally to the AFRC/RUF alliance in the bush which enabled these forces to conduct this widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population of Sierra Leone.
To support this indictment, during the course of this trial we will, of course, present many witnesses who will testify and be examined and cross-examined, and we will also present many documents. I'd like just to mention two of those documents, two of those documents which were found in the Sankoh home/residence in Freetown after his arrest in May of 2000.
One was a narrative report provided by one of his followers, prepared almost like a diary during the periods of 1997 and 1998 and early 1999 in order that the leader, when and if he were released, could have an account of what happened while he was sitting in prison in Nigeria.
In that ten-page letter, a report, which is signed by a Black Guard Commander and addressed to his commander Foday Sankoh, there are many very interesting passages, but I'd just like to quote from one, describing events in 1998 between the fall of the Junta, the intervention in February of 1998 of ECOMOG that caused the defeat of the group that had controlled the country for nine months and its withdrawal into the countryside, and the attack on Freetown by some of the same forces some ten months later during that year of 1998 which saw such enormous brutality across Sierra Leone.
"The High Command was called to report by the President of Liberia, Charles Taylor. Wherein the President seriously briefed" the person in "the High Command and gave him the confidence that he should not give up, but to keep up the struggle and uphold the revolution until the leader" - that would be Sankoh - "returns. The President gave full assurance to the High Command and promised to give his maximum support to the RUF. The President also took an oath that he will never betray his brother (Corporal Foday Sankoh). From that point, the President gave huge logistics" - and then the author says - "(ammunition) to the High Command for us to start repelling the ECOMOG advancement or to contain the situation ..."
Another document found in the residence on Spur Road in Freetown was essentially the minutes of a meeting that occurred among the RUF leadership following Sankoh's release and before the Lomé Accord, and it goes through and discusses the comments of many as they reported to the leader on the events that had transpired over the course of the period 1996 to 1999. One of them is quite instructive of how the diamond transactions worked with the top individual, the person they referred to as Big Brother and who, it is evident from the context, is clearly Charles Taylor.
The particular account and the part that I would like to read begins with a description of a troubled mission in which they had arrived at Koindu in the evening, which is, if I'm not mistaken, on the Sierra Leone side, in Kailahun.
"We ... met Benjamin," presumably Yeaten, "Memuna and others where we left them and gave them the feedback on our mission. Bra," who they refer to and, from the context, it appears to be Ibrahim Bah, the person that we discussed earlier in our outline of the persons involved in this case, a close subordinate of the accused, "said 'No problem. This is how God works out things,' that he could have been arrested. He said we should write a letter and hand over the 1,832 pieces in 9 plastics to Papay," the person that -- the common name used for the accused. "Bra" or Bah, "approved the letter. General Ibrahim Memuna and Jungle went to Liberia while we returned to Buedu. When Pa Rogers and others went to Gbarnga later, these diamonds were shown to him. Big Brother told them he is going to reserve them until you," Papa, Pa Sankoh, "return ... With regard to the 244 pieces that we sold, I have a record in a ledger with the quantity and everything ... we haggled on prices for the gems and we agreed on 17,000 US dollars."
As you see further in the letter, certain people took money from the 17,000, but 15,000 was available for "items that the boys needed at the front."
So a story is told of the delivery of 1,832 pieces, which we believe must be inferred from the evidence to have been diamonds; that 244 of them, some one-eighth, were then liquified, in a sense, to provide materiel for the front; seven-eighths of the diamonds were kept by Big Brother in anticipation of Sankoh's return.
The evidence, I think, will later show in our case that when Sankoh returned those diamonds were unavailable to him.
That's just some of the evidence we'll be presenting in this case to show the continuing assistance to the RUF and to the Junta and to the AFRC/RUF, assistance that allowed the war to continue with its brutality to civilians, a key aspect of its strategy, but also a transaction of profound benefit to the accused himself.
Of course, we're dealing with the ways that he's responsible for what happened in Sierra Leone and that is based upon the fact that he was providing arms; he was providing ammunition and other materiel; he was providing manpower; he was providing military training; he was providing facilities and safe havens in Liberia; he was providing strategic and tactical advice, direction, encouragement, as well as other assistance. And this enabled the members of the RUF, Junta and AFRC/RUF to carry out the campaign of terror charged in counts 1 through 11 of the indictment and to commit the crimes outlined by my learned colleague.
The accused's assistance had a substantial effect on the ability of these groups to commit these murders, mutilations, beatings, rapes, sexual slavery, enslavement for forced labour, looting and other crimes charged in the indictment.
As we will later show, the accused provided this assistance with full knowledge that these crimes had been and were being committed, or with the awareness of the substantial likelihood that his assistance, encouragement, or support would assist the commission of these crimes.
We earlier heard about the arms in the original offensive back in 1991 for which Sankoh thanked Taylor, but significantly and certainly within our temporal jurisdiction, we had great shipments of arms from 1997 and on into 2002. The materiel provided included the shipment of arms and ammunitions to the Magburaka airstrip in Tonkolili District in the fall of 1997 and the shipments used for the attacks throughout 1998, including the attack against Koidu, Makeni and other locations in 1998 as part of the operation to retake Kono and to march on Freetown.
The materiel was stored, these arms and other material were stored in facilities at various locations in Liberia before being sent into Sierra Leone, including the accused's own residences in Gbarnga and Monrovia and at the Executive Mansion in Monrovia. Subordinates of the accused working at these storage facilities would provide the materiel to the RUF, Junta and AFRC/RUF on the instructions of the accused. These instructions were usually communicated through a senior level subordinate such as Benjamin Yeaten.
There was manpower provided. The accused provided subordinate Liberian personnel to assist the RUF, Junta, in particular the RUF component and AFRC/RUF, throughout the early 1990s and throughout the conflict.
In 1998, the accused sent several hundred men of the Scorpion Unit to fight with the RUF. The accused drew these personnel from the NPFL, other organized armed groups within Liberia, the Liberian population in general, and, after the accused became President, from the AFL, which are the Armed Forces of Liberia, and specialized units such as his SSS, his Special Security Service, and his ATU, the Anti-Terrorist Unit. These personnel functioned in a variety of roles, for example, as fighters, trainers, and communications operators.
In addition to the fighters, military trainers and communications operations, the accused also provided personnel to facilitate the movement of RUF, Junta, and alliance members between Sierra Leone and Liberia. These personnel also facilitated the movement of arms and ammunition and the movement of diamonds. They served as security escorts, drivers, messengers, and acted as liaison between the accused and the RUF, Junta, and AFRC/RUF. The accused's subordinates also provided these groups with passes to get them through check-points in Liberia.
Then there was military training. We've discussed that in passing in the past, but let's note that the accused provided facilities at bases in Liberia, such as at Camp Nama, or Naama, and at Cobra Base and the Bomi Hills, where members of these groups or forces were trained. The training included basic military and combat skills and advanced combat skills and training in communications systems, techniques and procedures. The Sierra Leonean and Liberian trainees at these bases had no separate chain of chain of command; they were all treated as one body.
The trainers in Liberia included Liberians and Gambians subordinate to the accused. The commanders of these bases were personnel subordinate specifically to him. He held ultimate authority over the operation of these bases and the commanders, trainers and trainees at the bases would attend graduation ceremonies at these bases when they concluded their training.
The accused also provided military trainers and training commanders to the RUF in Sierra Leone. The trainees in Liberia and Sierra Leone included children under the age of 15, and they were given the same training as adults, that is, were given military training to include basic and advanced combat skills.
Then there were facilities and safe havens in Liberia. The accused provided facilities to the RUF, Junta, and AFRC/RUF alliance at the training bases as described above. In the early years of the conflict, Sankoh and the RUF made use of safe havens in Liberia. The RUF fighters would retreat to NPFL areas and bases or facilities, such as those in the Bomi Hills, where they would rest and reorganize. The accused would reposition -- re-provision these fighters with arms and ammunition to prepare for their return to Sierra Leone to continue their attacks against civilians there.
The accused provided Sankoh with a residence in Gbarnga, in Bong County, from which he made trips to RUF locations in Sierra Leone to distribute arms, ammunition, and other materiel, supplies provided -- and supplies provided by the accused. Additional facilities that were made available to the AFRC/RUF included a guesthouse in Monrovia at the time Taylor was President from 1998 through about 2001. The accused provided the security for the guesthouse, the domestic staff, the equipment for the communications centre established there to enable continuous communication between the guesthouse and the RUF, Junta, and AFRC/RUF alliance back in Sierra Leone.
Additionally, the accused provided strategic and tactical advice, direction and encouragement. Throughout the conflict, the accused did this, particularly with the RUF and the Junta and its RUF component and the alliance. Leaders of these groups conferred with the accused before making significant decisions and were in frequent contact with him, as those two documents that I just read indicated. In addition, from 1998 until the end of the conflict, the accused regularly sent Liberian subordinates and associates to Sierra Leone to provide guidance and advice to Bockarie and Issa Sesay, and, as I indicated earlier, to be the eyes and ears to make sure that the provisions that he was furnishing were well used in the conflict. These personnel included, but were not limited to, Yeaten; Bah; Musa Sesay; Duopo Merkazon; Christopher Varmoh, the famous Liberian Mosquito; and Daniel Tamba, whom we know as Jungle.
There was, of course, other assistance. Throughout the conflict, the accused provided financial assistance to the RUF, Junta, particularly its RUF component, and later to the AFRC/RUF alliance.
In 1998, the accused gave Bockarie cash to purchase arms and ammunition from the former ULIMO fighters in Lofa County, as I earlier described, in Liberia. Between 2000 and 2001, the accused provided large amounts of cash on several occasions to senior leaders of the AFRC/RUF, including Sesay and Kallon, in addition to supplies of arms and ammunition.
Throughout the armed conflict in Sierra Leone, the accused provided the RUF, Junta, and AFRC/RUF alliance with rice and other food, military uniforms, fuel, mining supplies, vehicles, medicine, and morale boosters, such as cigarettes, drugs, which were often used in the indoctrination of the young, alcohol, and other items. The accused's subordinates brought these supplies to Sierra Leone or personnel from the groups collected them in Liberia.
Throughout the armed conflict in Sierra Leone, the accused provided communications equipment to the RUF, Junta, and AFRC/RUF, including VHF radio sets and satellite phones. The accused also provided these organized armed groups with an FM radio station in Kailahun District which was used to broadcast instructions and propaganda in areas controlled by these organized groups.
It is our position that the accused knew that his assistance, encouragement or moral support would assist in carrying out the campaign of terror against the civilian population of Sierra Leone.
Why do we state that? Well, he had abundant notice. Indeed, the only inference that can be drawn from that notice is that he intended the crimes charged in the indictment. This can be proven in a number of ways.
First, there were national and international media reports discussing the crimes committed in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. The United Nations and other international and non-governmental organisations widely reported and condemned these crimes, and some of these reports were published in Liberia itself, in newspapers in Monrovia within sight of the accused's residence in the presidential mansion.
In February and March of 1996, let's look at a particular newspaper, the New Democrat Weekly, published in Monrovia. Headline: "Votes Counted in Sierra Leone Amidst Protests." Excerpt: "Some voters did not vote because of the rebel activities of Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front elements, putting the voters at great risks. Several persons were killed and others were maimed. The RUF recently vowed to disrupt the voting."
And then, of course, if there had been ever any question about the way the RUF conducted itself during the conflict, one only need turn to the very famous RUF speech to the nation presented in June of 1997 after the RUF was invited to rule by the AFRC in a joint group known as the Junta. In this communique to the nation, they confess to the way they conducted the war and they said:
"We looked at our brothers and killed them in cold blood. We removed our sisters from their hiding places to undo their femininity. We slaughtered our mothers and butchered our fathers. We have wronged the great majority of our countrymen. We have sinned both in the sight of man and of God. We therefore openly and publicly apologize to you, our Sierra Leonean brothers and sisters, for all the terror and the mayhem we unleashed on you in our bid to make Sierra Leone a country that all Sierra Leoneans would be proud of."
But, of course, that was not the end of RUF activities. After the ECOMOG intervention, the RUF, in alliance with the AFRC, was back in the field conducting the same kind of campaign that involved killing mothers, raping sisters.
17 February 1998, just after the overthrow of the FRC. Sierra Leone, Humanitarian Situation Report. "Many civilians have been killed and injured." Another excerpt: "Widespread looting has been reported in Kenema and Bo towns as the AFRC have commandeered vehicles and food and other supplies from relief agencies."
20 February 1998. Daily Times. Headline in Monrovia where Charles Taylor was President: "In Sierra Leone, 52 Burned Alive as Junta Goes on Rampage."
1 May 1998, a Medicins Sans Frontieres report. Atrocities against civilians in Sierra Leone. Excerpt:
"On 6 April 1998, Connaught Hospital started receiving small or large groups ... the following overview gives the number of patients admitted with arm amputations: 115 total number of patients interviewed; 4 with double arm amputations; 23 with single arm amputations; 5 men had, in addition to having their arm amputated, a part of, or one or both ears cut off; tendons, broken ulna and radius, as a result of cutlass attacks; 7 patients with either a complete hand or several fingers missing as a result of cutlass attacks; 20 patients with gunshot wounds; 2 women who were raped and had foreign objects inserted in their vaginas. Only one interviewee could be identified as a combatant (in this case a Kamajor fighter). All others were civilians, with occupations ranging from housewives, trader, farmer to diamond digger and miner."
10 May 1998. AAP Newsfeed:
"AFR: Sierra Leone Villagers Tell of Rebel Atrocities." "Ousted from power by a West African force loyal to Sierra Leone's president, former junta members hiding in the countryside were wreaking revenge with ethnic killings and maimings. Aid workers today transported 18 amputees from the northern town of Karina to a hospital in the capital of Freetown after rebel fighters hacked off their hands on Thursday."
12 to 15 June 1998, news article from Heritage, a Monrovia newspaper. Excerpt and the headline:
"In Sierra Leone: Massacre Again, As Mercenaries Still Flood In. The disintegrated empire of the deposed junta, now under the command of Samba Bockarie, alias CO Mosquito, is now leaving behind a heap of corpses as remnants of the rag-tag militiamen loyal to him have no resort but to wanton killing of civilians."
24 July 1998, news article from Daily Times, a Monrovia newspaper. Excerpt:
"Across Liberia-S/L Border: Guns, Rice Traded for Diamonds. AFRC/RUF military Junta disclosed that they receive supplies of rice and arms from Liberia in exchange for diamonds. They told General Shelpidi and party that the gruesome atrocities being perpetrated by them are being committed with a view to pressuring for the release of RUF leader Foday Sankoh ..."
13 July 1998, an Amnesty International report. "The United Nations Special Conference on Sierra Leone: The protection of human rights must be a priority for the international community." Excerpt:
"AFRC and RUF forces in the east and north of Sierra Leone are deliberately and arbitrarily killing and torturing unarmed civilians. A deliberate and systematic campaign of killing, rape and mutilation -- called by the AFRC and RUF 'Operation No Living Thing' has emerged since April 1998."
15 October 1998. "Tejan Kabbah Points Finger at AFL - Blames Liberians for Turmoil. As accounts continue to filter in about countless massacres that are being committed by heartless Liberian bandits against Sierra Leoneans, President Tejan Kabbah over the weekend expressed disgust over the continued participation of soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia in prolonging the Sierra Leonean crisis."
11 November 1998. After the rebel attack on Gbendembu where at least 100 bodies were found, a survivor told Reuters:
"... he had watched the attack as he hid on the roof of a building next to the Wesleyan Church. 'They searched from house to house ... Then I saw them march 11 people, men, women and children from the nearby bush into the church. The rebels closed the door after they entered. After two or three minutes, I heard the hostages screaming. It was horrible. They were screaming that the rebels were killing them, cutting their throats.' The survivor said the rebels, numbering about 20, left the church after about 30 minutes. 'I waited another half hour and stole into the church. There were the bodies of the 11, all of them with their throats cut and blood still gushing out.'"
27 December 1998. "Rebels Nearing African Capital Two Burned Alive in Sierra Leone. Rebel commander Sam Bockarie said yesterday his forces dragged the bodies of the dead Nigerian soldiers through the streets of Makeni with an armoured car 'as an example to everyone.'"
Then in early 1999, an Amnesty International report that details events in 1998. Excerpt from page 3:
"The town of Koidu, in Kono District, Eastern Province, was virtually destroyed by rebel forces in April, and more than 650 bodies were reported to have been found there. More than 200 unarmed civilians were killed during an attack on Yifin, a village in Koinadugu District, Northern Province, in late April."
That's from the media; some published in Liberia itself and from international reports in the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations. But, of course, let's remember that the accused had his own reporting systems. He had communications and a variety of mechanisms within the NPFL, the RUF, the Junta, the alliance, his eyes and ears, including in those direct subordinates or agents who were present in Sierra Leone, and those individuals were meeting in Liberia with senior leaders under his command.
The inference, I think, is clear that he committed this crime -- these crimes with clear intent and knowledge. But we should note as well that under our Statute it is possible to hold an official, particularly an official in a military organization, as Mr Taylor was when he was the Commander-in-Chief of the NPFL and the chief of state who is also the Commander-in-Chief of his armed forces, responsible under 6(3) of our Statute for his acts -- for the acts of his subordinates.
Prior to and throughout the armed conflict in Sierra Leone, the accused exercised formal or de jure as well as de facto authority and direct control over his Liberian subordinates. People like Yeaten, Bah, Jungle, Cisse, Weah, Varmoh, Tuah, Merkazon, Duoh, and his son Charles Taylor Jr., particularly after he became President when these individuals were under him in the Liberian government and military, those are individuals for whose acts he is very directly responsible on both a de jure and de facto basis. But he also exercised informal or de facto authority, what we call effective control, over the RUF and AFRC/RUF alliance because he had the material ability to prevent or punish the criminal conduct of members of these groups, in particular the RUF component, but certainly after it became an alliance, the whole group as well.
When the accused ordered senior level leaders of these groups to travel to Liberia to meet with him, they did so. When the accused ordered them to provide personnel to fight with his forces in Liberia, those senior leaders always obeyed those orders. When the RUF took UN peacekeepers hostage in 2000, the accused ordered Issa Sesay, then the interim leader of the AFRC/RUF, to release the peacekeepers. Issa Sesay obeyed that order but indicated that had it not been for the accused's order, he would not have released them. That makes these individuals his subordinates for whom he is responsible if the other conditions of Article 6(3) of our Statute are met, and that of course requires knowledge or reason to know what these individuals were doing.
It's certainly our position, given all of the notice that was provided to him, both publicly and directly through his own means, that he did know and, beyond all question, had reason to know that his Liberian subordinates in Sierra Leone and the RUF, Junta, in particular its RUF component, and the AFRC/RUF, were engaged in a campaign of terror in Sierra Leone. And we have just shown that some of this notice was available regarding the campaign of terror conducted by his subordinates against the civilian population including the reports of killings, rapes, mutilations, beatings, abductions, sexual slavery and forced marriage, use of child soldiers, and the looting and burning of civilian property.
Finally, of course, your Honours, we are here today charging crimes under Articles 2, 3, and 4 of the Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. These are crimes which are violations of international law, and at least in the case of ten of the crimes charged, or the ten counts charged here, those are crimes that might otherwise be domestic offences but become international crimes because of contextual elements, because of their nexus to certain other factors.
I doubt whether there will be great dispute that these crimes were connected to an armed conflict, and indeed I have outlined already in my history the progress of this armed conflict in Sierra Leone and the related conflict in Liberia.
They are to be found to have sufficient nexus if they were closely related to the armed conflict that they play -- that this conflict played a substantial part in the perpetrator's ability to commit the crimes, the decision to commit the crimes, the way in which the crimes were committed, and the purpose for which they were committed. The crimes were shaped or dependent on the environment or were committed in the furtherance of, or at least under the guise of, the situation created by the fighting.
I think from all we've learned what was happening, even though this was no way, and no legal way, to fight a war, there was a conflict ongoing closely related to these offences.
Secondly, of course, to the extent we've charged crimes against humanity, we must show a nexus to widespread or systematic attacks against the civilian population of Sierra Leone, and that, I think, is throughout our proof that there had been, indeed, a campaign of terror against the civilian population of Sierra Leone that had taken place in the context of the armed conflict, but that the target of this violence was not opposing combatants; rather, the target were those not taking any active part in these hostilities, the civilian population of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
Of course, as we discussed earlier, the evidence will prove that the accused was aware of these continuing widespread and systematic attacks and crimes, and with this knowledge continued to provide substantial support and to participate in the common plan that he himself developed. And the evidence is no where so compelling in the evidence -- than the evidence that Mr Bangura has presented of the re-supply and of the other things that the accused did at the very time that these attacks were occurring against civilians, providing the means that permitted the attacks to become only worse, culminating in the attacks in Freetown and elsewhere in 1999.
The only reasonable evidence, we submit -- the only reasonable inference, we submit, that can be drawn from the evidence is that the accused in fact intended the crimes charged in the indictment. But even if it were somehow not proven that he intended these crimes, he would be responsible because they were committed by his subordinates, with his actual or constructive knowledge, and he failed to do anything to prevent or punish this conduct.
Your Honours, the crimes which we have described to you in this opening statement are nothing short of enormous, and we submit that the evidence that we will present will be strong and compelling and be more than sufficient to prove the accused guilty on each count beyond a reasonable doubt.
As we begin this trial, we are about to take another major step forward in the name of justice for Sierra Leone. The people of Sierra Leone have high expectations. They are the ones who still bear the scars of this brutal conflict and for whom this process of accountability, no matter what the eventual outcome, will have its greatest meaning.
A judgment will not bring back the dead from their graves, nor give back limbs to the thousands of amputees; nor will it remove the physical scars that remain from the deep gashes and gruesome injuries inflicted, nor heel the thousands of women who were raped or sexually abused. It will not restore the childhoods of countless boys and girls. Your Honour, this trial will not erase even the emotional scars etched on the memory of the people of Sierra Leone. What this trial will do is give them some small measure of closure.
Your Honour, there's a Sierra Leonean expression in Krio, which I do not speak, a quotation given to me by my colleague Mr Bangura. "A hundred days for tiff man, wan day for master ose," meaning that the wrongdoer may escape for a long time but eventually will have to answer in the most important house, the house of justice.
This historic trial shows that while mayhem and terror were rained upon Sierra Leone and its people, there are those in this world who are ready to uphold the law and to decide that no matter how high the position of the person responsible, there will be a day of justice.