The transcripts of the trial of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia. More…

  • Thank you, Madam President. Just as a minor preliminary matter after reviewing yesterday's transcript I think one spelling of a name was missed and I am going to ask the witness for the spelling of that name. Just for counsel's reference, it's from yesterday's transcript on 22373. The name in question is at line 25 and it is recorded as "Kadiatu Jarra":

  • Mr Witness, yesterday you were referring to individuals who were present at the point of your seventh arrest and one of the individuals you named, it was recorded as Kadiatu Jarra. Who exactly was that - do you know who that is referring to?

  • Yes, I do. Actually the full name is Kadiatu Diarra Findley.

  • Okay. Can you go ahead and spell that name?

  • Kadiatu is K-A-D-I-A-T-U, Kadiatu, Diarra, D-I-A-R-R-A and then there is a dash and then there is Findley, F-I-N-D-L-E-Y.

  • Thank you, Mr Witness. And yesterday, and there is one other reference to yesterday's transcript before the question for counsel. The next reference is from page 22380 at lines 9 and 10. Mr Witness, yesterday at the end of the session you were describing some of the things that Mr Taylor was saying to you during the time of your seventh arrest while you were at White Flower and one of the things that you said that he asked you was: "Let me ask you a question. Was somebody paying you to do that?" This was with regards to when Mr Taylor was enquiring about your previous articles. Do you remember saying that yesterday?

  • Yes, sir.

  • Now, did you receive any indication as to why you were asked if you were paid?

  • Sir, I don't understand that.

  • Did you receive any indication as to why you were asked if you were being paid by someone to write these articles?

  • Counsel, are you asking me, because I - are you referring to indication from Mr Taylor or indication overall?

  • Well, the indication I did receive I think was more of a perception because Mr Taylor - President Taylor kept referring to my previous articles that discussed the issues of Sierra Leone, the RUF and connecting or drawing a link between his government - that is the Government of Liberia - and the RUF. There were, I must point out, several articles in different newspapers that also reported on the abuses by Liberian government soldiers in Liberia and in Sierra Leone but my articles, in addition to reporting those incidents, also tended to draw conclusions linking directly the government of President Charles Taylor to the RUF and also saying that the Government of Liberia, we were convinced, based on evidence that we had gathered in our reporting, was supporting the Revolutionary United Front, the RUF.

  • Okay. Now, to continue with what happened to you during the time of the seventh arrest, you said that Mr Taylor was speaking to you or interrogating you, you said, for approximately two hours and 20 minutes. Is that correct?

  • Yes, sir, that is correct.

  • After that what happened?

  • After the interrogation Mr Taylor - President Taylor, I am sorry - asked Benjamin Yeaten, he held various positions so he was the director of the SSS, that is the Special Security Service, the presidential bodyguard, he was at some point head of the Anti-Terrorist Unit, the ATU, so, and at some time he was considered the overall general of the military in terms with regards to the war. So I would simply refer to him as Benjamin Yeaten. He asked that I be turned over to Benjamin Yeaten who he said will make me speak the truth since I did not want to speak to him regarding what he considered the truth. From that point I was dragged out of the office, out of his - that meeting room at his home in Congo Town, Monrovia, and he specifically instructed - as a journalist I carried a kind of black bag, a shoulder bag, and he said they should go and find that bag that I carried and that he thought there were more pieces of evidence --

  • I am sorry to interrupt you. Who said --

  • -- that they should go find the bag? And who's - go ahead and call names if you can?

  • Okay. President Taylor told, instructed Benjamin Yeaten that they should take me and I should, you know, and locate and find a black bag that I carried and that he thought there were more pieces of evidence in that bag that would implicate me. And then I was moved out of his - out of that conference room through the sitting room and onto the street outside his residence in Congo Town and driven at the back of a pick-up truck, actually held like a bag of rice like this, two persons held my hands and two persons held my feet, like one, two, three, go, and I was flung into the back of the pick-up truck and driven to the offices of The Analyst newspaper. By this time it was on Benson Street, Monrovia, above the OK Dry Cleaning about 30 or 50 metres away from the headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia. We went into the building and they find a bag --

  • Who found the bag?

  • Now Benjamin Yeaten had instructed a guy called Papa Kuyateh.

  • Can you try to spell that, if you know how?

  • Yes. Well, his full name is actually --

  • Actually, I do believe that is actually caught - is in the record. I am sorry. It is in the record so it will be picked up.

  • Papa Kuyateh, with some other low ranking officers, both ATU and the police. I did, however, recognise about three more officers, but I remember one by name called Abu Kamara.

  • By the way, do you know - just to - sorry to interrupt, do you know the full name of Papa Kuyateh?

  • Kemoh Kuyateh. Papa is - he is actually named after his grandfather, according to the Mandingo tradition, so his mother wouldn't call him by name. We referred to him as her father, therefore call him Papa.

  • And just one other thing that you said earlier. You had said that when they initially - when you were initially sent back with these men you said that, "He said they should go and find that bag that I carried that he thought there would be more pieces of evidence". Who thought there would be more pieces of evidence?

  • President Taylor said they should go and find that bag and President Taylor said that he, President Taylor, thought there would be more implicating pieces of evidence in that bag.

  • So go ahead, continue now.

  • So once we got to the offices of The Analyst newspaper the doors were locked, it is a metal door, the door was locked and they forced the door open and went into the office and searched for what they referred to as pieces of evidence. They find - they found pictures of the LURD leader, Sekou Damate Conneh, they found pictures of Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, current President, Republic of Liberia, they found pictures of Alhaji Kromah, they found pictures of Dr Amos Sawyer, all Liberian, they found picture of Bishop Michael Kpakala Francis and many others, so these people were people that the Government of Liberia had been insinuating to the Liberian people as being enemies to hate - hate the Liberian government. And they were instantly excited. They said, "Well, these are all enemies of the government so why are you keeping these pictures here?", these are the police and ATU officers. And I said, "Well, we are newspaper people. When we report the story we need to put if possible a face to that story. Say, for example, if we reported a story about President Bill Clinton we would place his picture there so people know that this is President Clinton, and then at that moment they found the picture of President Charles Taylor, and I said, "Okay, there you go. This is it. That is what we do. Journalists, we keep everybody's picture when possible". They didn't find any implicating evidence. They found my bag and they found my chequebook in the bag and they found other personal documents, like receipts for purchasing some goods in stores in Liberia that belonged to me, they found receipt of my son's hospital bill because I had taken him to hospital earlier the previous day, which was 24th.

  • Did they find anything incriminating?

  • They found nothing - absolutely nothing - and they went back. They found nothing incriminating. They took me back to President Taylor. I am not sure exactly what they whispered to him or what they told him and --

  • Where was - when you say took you back, where did they take you back to?

  • They took me back to his residence in Congo Town which was commonly referred to as White Flower.

  • Okay, so continue.

  • And nothing was found and my personal property, including my chequebook was - I mean were seized by President Charles Taylor as FOC, meaning - he just said "FOC" but general --

  • President Taylor said FOC. We know generally in Liberia, because we had lived through the war, that FOC meant fruit of the crime so --

  • When you said Mr Taylor - President Taylor - said FOC, when did he say that specifically?

  • When I was taken back to whom - after they searched my office and - my offices and found nothing, no incriminating evidence, and I was taken back. By this time I couldn't tell what the time was because I was so disorientated and I didn't keep track of time any more. So it was early morning the 25th. It was --

  • In terms of time and sequence of events, I am not asking about the time of the day or night, you said that the people that brought him back whispered something and at some point you said he said "FOC". When did he say that specifically?

  • He said that after the people who brought me back whispered something to him. I am not sure if they were reporting back to him that this is all they found, or whatever they were telling him, I didn't hear exactly what they were telling him, and then he said, "Well, all of these are FOCs" and then take him back. The torture on my person began and --

  • Where did they take - where were you taken after this?

  • I was taken to the National Bureau of Investigation, which is the NBI, located at the corner of Gurley, that is G-U-R-L-E-Y, Gurley Street and I think Sekou Turay - I think it is called Sekou Toure Avenue.

  • And who took you there?

  • This time Benjamin Yeaten with some of his bodyguards took me there. At first I didn't even know because there was a blindfold over my face, so I didn't know if that was the place. So I was taken there and put in a secluded room, separated from whoever was in there and I stayed there for about two weeks. However --

  • And during the course of that two weeks did anything happen to you?

  • No, during the course of that two weeks at the NBI nothing happened to me.

  • I was - in terms of torture or beating, no. But the previous day - I mean the following day there was another prisoner in a room facing my room who I will later know as BS Kapor Junior. Kapor is spelt as K-A-P-O-R. So BS Kapor Junior. He asked me if I were Hassan and I told him yes. He said, "Wow, you're in big trouble." I'm not sure if what led to his being there is necessary to this case, but he told me that, "Well, if you're here you're probably not going to get tortured, but if you get out of here you're probably going to see the worst."

    So I stayed there for about two weeks and was later taken out of there at night, blindfolded, to a place in Caldwell, C-A-L-D-W-E-L-L, Monrovia, to a police station called Zone 7 and the police commander there was called - was referred to as CO-7. CO meaning commanding officer 7. That's all the name I know about him. I stayed there for a while. I wasn't physically tortured there, but I was, however, placed in what I found to be a toilet because there were faeces all over the floor and maggots and - yeah. Do you want me to continue?

  • Well, I am going to ask you to continue, but first of all just some more general questions. At this point then - this is after your seventh arrest - how long are you actually detained for on this occasion in total?

  • Well, in terms of days, weeks or months, whatever it is?

  • Well, I'm not sure I was keeping track up to this time, but this was well into July.

  • Well, let me just ask you this: When were you arrested this time?

  • And when were you released finally?

  • 7 June - I mean 7 December 2002.

  • Okay. So during the course of that time between 24 June 2002 to 7 December 2002 how many different places were you held in?

  • 13 different places.

  • And during the course of that time - during the course of that time did anything - were you ever physically - did anything ever happen to you physically?

  • Okay. What happened to you?

  • It started at - well, at a police station in Congo Town opposite - I think it is slightly opposite the Paynesville Community High School.

  • Well, Mr Witness, maybe to make this easier for yourself too, I am not going to ask you to recount every single incident that occurred to you physically.

  • Okay.

  • I'm just asking you generally what happened to you during the course of that nearly six month period?

  • I was tortured. I was what was referred to then in Liberia as tie-bayed. I was tie-bayed regularly. That is, in terms of description, the hands being tied behind the back with the two elbows attaching each other and a sort of rope we referred to as the twine, rubber like twine, was used to tie me which split my flesh here.

  • For the record the witness was pointing at his elbows.

  • Mr Witness, you said you were tie-bayed. Do you still have any marks on your body in relation to this?

  • Yes, I have several physical marks on my body and I may not be able to show all to the Court, but there are some on my hands, especially on my elbows, that if the Court wants or desires I can just roll up my sleeves and you will see them. And in addition to being tie-bayed I was electrocuted on my genitalia several times, probably over 20 times, and all of these have been at Klay Junction midway about 22 miles between - I mean away from Monrovia and - it's midway between Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, and Tubmanburg, the capital city of Bomi County.

  • Now, who was doing this to you?

  • Well, the person and/or organisation. Well, describe any of the people you remember doing this to you?

  • Right, specific instructions - I am not sure what instruction was passed on to Benjamin Yeaten by the President, because he instructed him to make me to talk. So Benjamin Yeaten in turn passed on instructions to a guy called Joe Towah, that is T-O-W-A-H. So Joe Towah was the like prison supervisor. He would come and ask if I were prepared or ready to talk or speak to them about what they referred to as the truth and on those occasions I would be tie-bayed. I was actually held in an underground cell. I am like five nine, five ten in terms of height and that place was probably - I don't know, probably four feet.

  • Where was this? What location are you referring to now?

  • This is at Klay Junction.

  • We are still talking about Klay Junction?

  • Yes, I am still talking about Klay. And the underground cell was half filled with water. And at this particular place there were Sierra Leoneans with the Liberian government soldiers, a lot of them. I know that because I know the discrete difference between Sierra Leonean English, which is general - which is Krio, and the Liberian English. So I could tell the difference and I did on occasions have the opportunity to speak with some of them and they admitted that they were Sierra Leoneans and I also did see someone that I had previously reported on, Gibril Massaquoi, who told me personally - he is a Sierra Leonean. He told me that - he asked me when torturing me if I knew the meaning of Gibril and I said yes, because I understand Arabic. I said it means Gabriel. He said, "Okay, I'm your Angel Gabriel. I have been instructed by Joseph Tate to make you to talk." So there were several of them in there. So in their presence --

  • Well, I just want to make sure I understand what you just last said. You said that somebody named Gibril said he was your Angel Gabriel to make you talk, but what was his role, if any?

  • He was one of the - I don't know specifically what rank he held, but he was with the - he, like many other Sierra Leoneans there, was carrying gun and was a security officer. Sometimes they wore military uniforms. Sometimes they wore ordinary civilian clothing and other times they will wear what looked like a police uniform just with the pants.

  • Okay, so he was not a prisoner with you. You're saying he was part of the security?

  • No. Yes, he was part of the security.

  • Okay. Now, just to - I don't mean to interrupt again, but how long were you held at Klay for, this particular location at Klay?

  • Well, by this time we had basically lost - I had basically almost lost track of time in terms of that, but I was held there - I do know I was held there well into August. I think it must have been around August 18/19 because --

  • Okay, that's okay. That's what I asked you. That's all.

  • Mr Santora, just so that I can understand this evidence, Mr Witness, why do you say that Joe Towah was acting on the instructions of Benjamin Yeaten rather than on his own initiative?

  • Yes, I say that because whenever Benjamin Yeaten came to Klay they will pull me out of the - they will pull me along with some other prisoners, but it will be one at a time. They will pull me out of the hole or the underground cell, they will take me to what was an administrative structure building at Klay. If you have been to Klay, from Monrovia the building is to the right and from Tubmanburg it's to the left. They will bring me there and Benjamin Yeaten will sit in a chair behind a desk. Joe Towah will sit next to him and there were several other guys who will go there from time to time and he will ask Benjamin - I mean Joe Towah --

  • Who would ask Joe Towah?

  • Benjamin Yeaten will ask Joe Towah in my presence, "Has he said anything yet?" And Joe Towah will say no. Then he will tell Joe Towah, "So you are being very easy on this guy. I need him to say - to talk something because I need to report back to the President to tell him exactly what he said. The President, you know, is impatient with this slow train of events."

    And then at some point they would take me out of the building to the back of the building and they will take a prisoner. Behind the building it's like if I stood here and the building was running parallel to my line of standing, the back of the building which would run perpendicular to that line, to my line of sight, behind there they will shoot - pretend as if they were killing somebody. At some point I will hear, because I didn't see if they actually shot and killed those people or not, and then they will come back to me and say, "Well, do you want to follow these guys, this guy we've just sent to hell? If you don't speak, we are going to do exactly what we did to you." When they fired, the person will yell, "Oh, you've killed me. You've killed me."

    You know, that psychological stuff would happen to me several times to make me to say what they wanted to hear. So I know firsthand that Benjamin Yeaten instructed and said also that he wanted to report back to the President because the President was impatient with the slow train of events.

    So he said that in English, which I heard, and I also do know that he gave specific instructions to beat and tie-bay me and put me back in the hole. And these kind of interrogations happened at least - at least - 20 times that I recall. At least 20 times during my stay at Klay.

    As well as this, there were times that Benjamin Yeaten --

  • Well, I think you have answered the question. Thank you.

  • Mr Witness, just again speaking generally, during the period of your confinement from June until December 2002 about - and you may have answered this, but just to be clear - how many times were you subjected to physical abuse in total, approximately?

  • Specifically in specific numbers I don't know, but what I do remember is it was more than - it was more than 20 times. At least 20 times.

  • Okay. And how many times, if you can recall approximately, were you asked or interrogated?

  • Every torture was accompanied by interrogation. There was no interrogation that wasn't accompanied by torture, save the first interrogation by President Charles Taylor, but --

  • Right. Go ahead, sir.

  • Did you at any time have the chance to have any visitors?

  • That was completely out of the question. The answer is no. Even if a security officer, who was not authorised to see me saw me, he will be harmed. I know that because there - I have two examples of that.

  • Well, I will ask you for those examples - I may ask you for the examples but let me just ask you a few more questions first. Did you ever have the chance to get released?

  • I am sorry, I don't understand that.

  • Did you ever have the opportunity to be released from custody? Were you ever offered the opportunity for release?

  • Twice. First 25 September, when I was held at the National Bureau of Investigation.

  • This is during 2002, during the period?

  • Yes, 25 September 2002. The Amnesty International and the international community had mounted pressure on the government that they thought that I was dead and/or severely tortured. The government in its attempts to dispel such rumours allowed United States embassy officials and persons of deputy - then deputy chief of missions, Thomas White and a visas councillor - I don't know his first name, his last name is Mr Wheeler - went to visit me, were allowed, you know, were allowed to see me and to convince me. They told me that, "Okay, we have talked to the government of President Charles Taylor and our sense is he has agreed to release you but on one condition; that you leave Liberia; you leave West Africa immediately. So I asked them, "So where am I going?" They said, "Well, we the United States, will offer - have offered to take you to the United States." So I specifically told Ambassador White and his visa councillor that I believed that the United States was the bacon of modern democracy and as such I thought that the United States should only prevail on the Liberian government to take me to court to defend myself since the government believed that it had evidence against me, and they told me that that was not going to happen because the government didn't have evidence against me. So I said, "Well, Mr Ambassador, thanks, but no thanks. I will not take the offer to leave Liberia. No, I am not going to do it." So he said, "Well, there is nothing else we could - we can do and that is about all we can do." I said, "Well, there is something you can do. Keep pressuring, along with the international community, the government of President Taylor to take me to court. They have evidence. Let them put their evidence to scrutiny in a court of law."

  • So at this point then you said that you did not accept the offer of release?

  • I refused, specifically rejected the offer of release and I told the ambassador and his officials that in prison.

  • Now, did there come a point again later on when you had an opportunity for release?

  • Yes, there came a second opportunity which started with the Red Cross - I think the guy's last name is Morris - I don't - I am not aware of everything that was going on outside, however.

  • I don't want you to speak to that. Just what happened to you the second time.

  • Right. I received a note which I believed came from my mother and my mother pleading with me - somehow she had heard this particular September 25th interaction and she plead with me in the note to accept any offer to go anywhere in the world and leave prison. Culturally, I am obligated to respect and honour my mother. So, based on that, I accepted the offer. This offer came late December, it was December 5th. I accepted the offer on December 5th and December 7th I was released to the custody of the United States ambassador, not allowed to visit my family, my kids; not allowed to go to my house; not allowed to take any of my personal property. From prison, to the Roberts International Airport in Harbel, Liberia, on a plane and out of Liberia. That was the condition of my release.

  • So in terms of your personal belongings, what were you able to take with you when you were released?

  • Zero. I mean, there was a tradition in Liberia, you know, if someone was arrested by the government and turned enemy of the government, or the state, if you were arrested, even before you were, the person who would be arrested, security officers would go into the person's home and take whatever they wanted. It was a free for all. They referred to it as a - as Kuwait. Free, you know, sweet everything, so they would take everything.

  • Just to be, for the record may have missed it, you said they referred to it as what?

  • Okay. Now, what was your physical condition at the point when you were finally released?

  • I was - physically I was sick. I was worn out, I was depressed. I had wounds on me and I had, as a result of the electrocution, I had some, you know, other problems, yeah.

  • Did you ever have to receive medical treatment for any of these?

  • Yes, sir, I did. Well, were - after my release, yes, I did receive medical treatment because I was flown from Liberia to Accra, Ghana, where I was placed in a hotel. I was also taken to hospital. I was receiving treatment before I was moved to the United States.

  • Okay. Now since moving to the United States, have you continued work - any affiliation with Amnesty International?

  • Oh, sure, yes, I have. Actually, on Amnesty International's public speakers list, I am a public speaker in the United States, so I speak to Amnesty groups from Boston to San Francisco, to Texas, to Utah, to Baltimore, all over, at least 40 states across the United States. I speak about torture, I speak about democracy and the media to students at Harvard university, George Town Law, Brown University, Cincinnati, University of Indianapolis in new Hampshire, all over the place, and today, because of my experience, I am also working with Amnesty in the United States to ask the incoming United States government, led by Obama, to close down Guantanamo Bay prison, so that is one thing I am working on, and torture, and do away with impunity.

  • Now, I am going to take you back to a few other issues related to your time in Monrovia when you were working at The National and then later at The Analyst. You said that during the course of your time as a journalist there were other newspapers as well, and you named some of those newspapers that were also reporting in Monrovia at the time. Can you remember some of the issues that were being reported at the time you were in Monrovia related to the conflict in Sierra Leone?

  • Yes, sir, I do.

  • What were some of those issues?

  • Some of those issues were reporting - were about, you know, the revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone, the war in Liberia, in north Liberia, Lofa County.

  • Just pause, Mr Witness. Mr Griffiths?

  • Madam President, I rise to express a certain anxiety. Now, it is one thing to place before a tribunal of fact a witness who observed certain events and is relating those events. Likewise, I appreciate that in international tribunals because there is no rule against hearsay such hearsay statements about events can be put before the Court. We are now dealing with a very dangerous area. This man is not being put before this Court as an expert; he is being put before the Court as a witness of fact.

    Consequently, when he as a journalist claims to be talking about certain issues in Sierra Leone, and on the evidence so far it is not a country that he visited more than once, one has to be extremely careful in order to identify what is the source of the information he is giving because we are told he is the editor of a newspaper, he is responsible for its opinion content. The only persons who can legitimately provide opinion evidence before a criminal court are experts, unless it relates to the reputation of a witness. Consequently, if we are now to be regaled by a litany of issues this man claims as a journalist he reported on in his newspaper, in our submission it is inadmissible.

  • If I may respond?

  • Yes, Mr Santora.

  • The witness is certainly not being asked an opinion and the witness is certainly not being asked what was actually happening in Sierra Leone. The witness was simply being asked for a factual observation based on his position as a journalist and an editor in Monrovia as to what was being reported in the newspapers. Whether or not what was being - the underlying issue in the newspaper is not what is being asked, the underlying facts of those reports. What is being asked is what was actually being reported and what was it. And there is a distinction and this, when the question is posed this way, it is asking for a factual observation which this witness is in a perfect position to give.

    He is - certainly the foundation of him as a journalist has been established, his familiarity with the various periodicals in Monrovia at the time has been established, and he is simply being asked what was being reported in those respective periodicals. He is not being asked for whether or not what was happening in Sierra Leone and there is a distinction.

  • Well, there is a distinction too between whether facts were being reported or whether what was being reported was somebody else's opinion.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • The question asked is, "Do you remember some of the issues that were being reported at the time you were in Monrovia related to the conflict in Sierra Leone?" We consider this is a question of fact on what issues that were being reported and if the answers are limited to those facts and not to the opinion of the witness the question is allowed. He may not, however, give opinions.

  • Mr Witness, I am just going to ask you the question again.

  • I'm sorry, I lost my --

  • It's at page 21, or page 20.

  • Thank you, Justice Sebutinde:

  • Now, you said that during your time as a journalist and an editor in Monrovia there were other newspapers as well and you named some of those other newspapers. Do you recall that?

  • Yes, sir.

  • Can you remember some of the issues that were being reported at the time that you were in Monrovia related to the conflict in Sierra Leone?

  • What were some of those reports?

  • Some of those reports were the RUF war - the RUF atrocities against civilians, some murders of civilians in the conflict area, that is north in Lofa County in Liberia, RUF in Sierra Leone activities against civilians, Liberian government soldiers' activities relating to killing civilians in northern Liberia, Lofa County, as well as the presence of some Liberian government troops --

  • Just to be clear, I am only asking about reports relating to Sierra Leone.

  • Okay, yes, reports about Sierra Leone that were being published in various newspapers included the RUFs - that is Revolutionary United Fronts - murdering civilians in Sierra Leone as well as the presence of Liberian government soldiers inside Sierra Leone as well as comments by Liberian government officials, including President Charles Taylor, on the Sierra Leonean crisis.

  • Okay. Can you recall during the time that you were a journalist the frequency of these reports?

  • Yes, sir.

  • How often was this being reported, in terms of events relating to Sierra Leone again I'm speaking?

  • They were intermittently - well, let me put it this way: They were less frequently reported until Amnesty International began to issue press statements based on its missions in Sierra Leone and then they became - the issues became more and more reported in Liberian medias, Liberian newspapers and on radios.

  • Now, earlier you said something that other newspapers were reporting about atrocities both in Liberia and Sierra Leone, but you yourself reported on Mr Taylor's connection to the RUF.

  • That's correct.

  • What did you mean by this distinction?

  • Well, this was an important distinction that was being reported by our papers. What I read from other newspapers and what I discussed with other editors I realised - based on that, I realised that though these issues were being reported one key element was absent; that is a connection between President Charles Taylor and the RUF and the RUF war.

  • Madam President, I am sorry but I am going to have to raise again and it is the same point. The witness is basing this - his editorial conclusion - on discussions with other journalists and editors and he comes to a conclusion. How can he extrapolate such an opinion and place it before this Court when in effect this is opinion evidence? In effect his opinion was Charles Taylor was involved in the conflict in Sierra Leone based on - his own words - conversations with other journalists. How is this admissible?

  • Mr Santora, your reply?

  • Well, Madam President, the witness was simply in this recounting what led him to report in a certain way that was distinguished from other reports that were going on with relation to Sierra Leone. He is simply drawing a distinction. He did not say that his reports were based only on his opinion anywhere in his response. He simply said that what was distinguishing his reporting from what other reporters were reporting at the time. That is simply what the question is and he is perfectly in a position to describe for him personally what he was reporting and why he was reporting the way he was. That is perfectly within his scope of knowledge to speak about his own personal reporting. That is simply the distinction he is drawing and there is no opinion being elicited and there is no assertion. This is not put forward with the assertion that what he is saying is true or not. It is quite frankly irrelevant. It is a matter of what actually was being published, not what was true or not.

  • But I understood him to say that he took into account the reports that were being published and absent from those reports was some evidence that he is about to give of his own view. In other words, the evidence that is being objected to now is not what he read in any reports; it is his own view.

  • Bearing in mind of course, Madam President, that the view that he is about to offer goes to the ultimate issue in this trial.

  • Perhaps, and it can alleviate my colleague's concern, is that I can cut - I am simply asking to distinguish his reporting from other reporters and I think he has actually done that. He has already testified as to what he has reported on, which is his reports related to the accused's relation to the RUF. He has already testified to that and so, if anything, this is cumulative. He has already testified to the content of his reports and that is simply what would be repeated here and that being distinguishable from what other journalists were doing at the time.

  • Sorry, Mr Santora, I am not clear what you are saying. Are you saying you are not seeking to pursue that particular question, or are you making some form of submission that it is not relevant?

  • No, I am just responding to the objection and to alleviate my colleague's concern is that I do not plan to pursue this - anything beyond him saying what he has already said before, his reporting versus other reporters at the time in Monrovia. That is simply - I am not taking it any further than that.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • I am sorry to interrupt, but we can save your Honours' time. We will move on from this point and I will not seek any further questions on the issue, if that helps your Honours.

  • We don't need help, but if that is what you have decided so be it.

  • Yes, I have decided that. So I can move on at this point then if that makes it simpler:

  • Now, Mr Witness, can you describe for the Court from your observation as a journalist what was the atmosphere in Monrovia for journalists at the time of Mr Taylor's presidency - during the time of Mr Taylor's presidency?

  • The press or the media were being muzzled. There was self - as a result of, you know, muzzling the media there was self-censorship in many media houses.

  • What do you mean by the phrase "self-censorship"?

  • For example, if a media house had a story--

  • Madam President, I am sorry, but we are dealing with --

  • Just pause, Mr Witness.

  • We are dealing with the very same issue. This witness is not being put forward as an expert. He is now offering opinions. Now, granted he was a journalist, but taking by way of example the last question put to him, "What do you mean by the phrase self-censorship?", bearing in mind of course he is not an editor of the other newspapers about whom he claims self-censorship was rampant, consequently what he is offering now is his outside opinion of forces operating on the minds of journalists and editors in other newspapers. That to my mind sounds like an opinion.

    In our submission he is in no position to give such an opinion. He can talk about what happened within his own experience and his own newspaper, but in our submission he is not to be asked to offer opinions about other newspapers or indeed about the actions of other journalists generally in Monrovia.

  • Mr Santora, your reply?

  • May I briefly respond. First of all, I was asking him to define the term self-censorship in the question. But, secondly, this witness has testified not only to his work as a journalist with his respective periodicals, if counsel remembers he also testified to his affiliation with the Press Union and his relationship with other newspapers and their respective editors, conversations with those respective editors, observations of those respective editors and he is being asked to testify simply from his factual observation on his position in Monrovia as to what the atmosphere was for the media - the newspaper media - at the time he was in Monrovia. It is not eliciting an opinion. It is based on his observations both within his respective periodical and his affiliation which he has already testified to with other newspapers in Monrovia at the time.

  • Madam President, I hesitate to rise again, but the issue is a lot more complicated than that. There is another dimension which I omitted to mention initially because I was hopeful that my learned friends opposite would apprehend the force of our argument and act accordingly.

    But the second objection is this and it is a more fundamental, at one level, objection. It is one of relevance. How is this relevant to any issue on the indictment faced by this accused? We are talking now about press freedom in a foreign capital in a country where this defendant faces no accusations of committing crimes. So in our submission what is now being elicited has no relevance whatsoever to a single issue on the indictment he faces. So there are two objections. One, it is opinion evidence and, two, how is it relevant?

  • Your reply to the second objection, Mr Santora?

  • Just, I am confining myself to the second objection, this issue became relevant when the Defence made it relevant in the course of their cross-examinations, during the course of the Defence cross-examinations. They have, and I am looking - I think it was in the case of one of the witnesses - I think it was the former Moses Blah's testimony, it was the Defence that made suggestions and assertions that there was a climate of press freedom in Monrovia and so it was the Defence that made this issue relevant.

    We agree it is not specifically in the indictment, but it was raised by the Defence in the course of their cross-examination, so the Prosecution is perfectly entitled to lead evidence as the case develops in areas that the Defence has raised the issue during the course of their cross-examination.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • We uphold the objection that the witness is now giving opinion evidence.

  • The Prosecution has no further questions for the witness.

  • Thank you, Mr Santora. May I take it, Mr Griffiths, that you are leading the cross-examination of this witness?

  • Yes, I am Madam President.

  • Mr Bility, in light of the last issue, can you help me with this please. What is decree 88A, or what was it?

  • Decree 88A was - well, I am not sure if I am going to be exact, but it had to do with freedom of speech. It was actually by a previous government. The government, the military government of the late Samuel Doe, President Republic of Liberia, April - well, Head of State and President, April 1980, September I think 1999, excuse me. So it sought to bar people from certain things, at least in practice, some forms of public gathering, expression of opinions and in that line. I am not like 100 per cent familiar with it but I believe that is the basic.

  • So if I can extract from what you have told us, this was a decree passed by the Doe administration designed to curtail freedom of public protest and expression of views. Is that right?

  • Yes, that is correct.

  • What happened to it following the general elections in 1997?

  • What is that? Excuse me?

  • What happened to decree 88A after the elections in July 1997?

  • I am going to object.

  • I am just objecting simply because the Prosecution was just precluded from asking questions with relation to the atmosphere and environment in relation to media and expression and now counsel is putting that exact same issue to this witness which the Prosecution was just precluded from doing.

  • No, I see this as a historical question. What happened to decree 88A after the elections in July 1997? That is a historical question of fact, in my view. Please put the question.

  • What happened to decree 88A after the elections in July 1997, Mr Bility?

  • The government of - now this is to the best of my recollection - the government of the National Patriotic Party, led by President Charles Taylor, announced at some point after some level of lobbying by the press union and other human rights organisation interested in free speech, announced that it would repeal that decree.

  • Was it repealed?

  • The government announced that it has - that it repealed it.

  • So it was repealed?

  • In theory, yes, sir.

  • Now, putting that issue now to bed, I want to ask you a number of questions about the account you have given us over the last day or so. Now, if at any time you do not understand my questions, would you please ask me to either repeat them, or rephrase them, because I don't want to confuse you. Will you do that for me?

  • And right at the outset, Mr Bility, just so that you understand my position from the outset, I make it clear that so far as your testimony is concerned, I have the following suggestions to make: One, that you are a liar. Do you understand me?

  • Secondly, that you are personally engaged in a crusade against former President Taylor. Do you understand that?

  • Yes, sir, I do.

  • Thirdly, that that crusade upon which you have embarked is motivated not by concerns about human rights abuses, and Mr Taylor's alleged involvement in Sierra Leone, but rather is motivated by ethnic and political loyalties held by you. Do you understand that?

  • I do understand that, sir.

  • Further, fourthly, I suggest that you have become, over the years, a professional witness willing to tailor, no pun intended, his account to suit the tribunal before which you are appearing. Do you understand that?

  • I do understand your position and concern, sir.

  • And just so that you understand clearly what I am suggesting in that regard, what I am suggesting is that in your accounts of conversations you had with Charles Taylor, at times when you were arrested, you have now quite deliberately slanted those conversations towards the RUF because of the trial in which you are now giving evidence. Do you understand me?

  • I do understand your position and concern, sir.

  • I am also going to suggest to you, Mr Bility, that you were a spy for the United States of America at a time when the democratically elected government of Charles Taylor was besieged by rebel forces bent on overthrowing that government so that the Liberian government bluntly was acting in self-defence, and you knew that such forces, ULIMO, LURD and so on, were supported by foreign countries including the government of the United States of America, and you nonetheless passed on information about your government to them. Do you understand me?

  • I do understand your position and concern, sir.

  • And now before we begin, just in relation to that last topic have you, Hassan Bility, ever had contact with the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America?

  • Sir, can you please repeat that question. Are you stating the question against a backdrop of previous statements you have made, or would you put a time frame to it with respect to the previous statements you have made?

  • It is a fairly simple question, but given that I implored you at the beginning to ask me to repeat if you are confused, let me do so again. Have you, Hassan Bility, at any time had contact with the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America?

  • This is the answer, sir. From June 20th 1969 to January 13th 2009 I, Hassan Bility, have never, ever, ever had any form of contact - any form of contact whatsoever - with the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Never. June 20 1969, my birthday.

  • Now, help me. Why was it so difficult to answer that question when first I asked it?

  • It wasn't difficult. I thought I should be in a better position to have understood what you were saying, because my microphone a little bit when I readjusted it was grinding, so I thought I probably missed a point or so from your question, sir.

  • Let me ask another question in that regard: Have you, Hassan Bility, at any time had any association with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America?

  • Well, your Honour, the judges, I would like for the counsel to provide a working for me, I am not a lawyer, a working definition for the word "association"? What context is he speaking?

  • You are a journalist, Mr Bility, but given your objection let me put it differently: Have you, Hassan Bility, ever had any contact with any agent or employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at any time?

  • Yes, sir.

  • Dates, I am not very good at dates.

  • Well, let me just put it in this context. In 2003 - 2004, 2003/2004 I guess, the United States Cable News Network, CNN, based in Atlanta Georgia, United States, requested an interview with me, which is on the internet, I can look it up. Amongst the things they asked me was if I thought that President Charles Taylor had connection of any form with any terrorist organisation; for example, like Al-Qaeda. So my answer, which I do not believe is relevant to your question and/or to the Court, prompted the FBI, a guy called - I am not sure the name is relevant either, contacted me that they wanted to speak with me. That was the first contact.

    The second contact was in the case of President Taylor's son, Chucky, in Miami, Florida, United States of America. I had been asked too if I remember or if I thought the accounts of one of the victims was accurate by the FBI and the Justice Department, the FBI and the DHS, that is the Department of Homeland Security, and I thought I was obligated to tell the truth.

    The victim in question was someone who was held along with me in Klay in that underground cell and he was held with me in Foya towards the Sierra Leonean border. This victim had been - a pressing iron had been used by the accused, hot pressing iron, to mark his body. So I felt obligated. And I saw the marks, he was held with me in Klay - in Klay, Bomi County, and Foya, upper Lofa County. I felt obligated as a human being first to tell the truth. So the FBI contacted me and the Department of Homeland Security also contacted me since the Justice Department was pursuing the case against Mr Charles Emmanuel Taylor, you know. So, yes, there was a contact. So those are the contexts in which I have had contact with agencies of the United States government.

  • Mr Griffiths, he has referred to the accused. I don't think he meant the accused in this trial. I would like you to clarify, Mr Witness. But also you said pursuing the case against Mr Charles Emmanuel Taylor?

  • Who appears in the LiveNote transcript as Charles Taylor and I don't think you are referring to the defendant in this case?

  • No, I am referring to the accused in the Miami case who was charged under a 1994 US law regarding an American citizens committing such crimes overseas. So the two contacts I have had with the US security agencies, one was some references are made with one of my CNN interviews regarding President Charles Taylor. That was the first contact, the FBI contacted me, and as a matter of fact I was in Sierra Leone when they went to my home. The second contact was, you know, if I could attest to the account of a victim in relation to Charles Emmanuel or Chucky Taylor in Miami. So those were the two as far as I remember and I think I remember those contacts quite well, my contacts with the feds and the DHS, but I haven't had any contact with the Central Intelligence Agency at all.

  • Just so that we are all clear, you gave evidence in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, Miami Division on October 14 and 15 of this year - of last year, didn't you?

  • Yes, sir, I did.

  • That was in the trial of one, and I use the nickname, Chucky Taylor, son of this defendant. That's right, isn't it?

  • Now, I am returning to my theme about your contacts. I have now asked you about the CIA and I have asked you about the FBI. I want you to listen very carefully to this question. Between 1992 when you returned to Liberia from Ghana until January 2003 when you were flown out of Monrovia on 7 January, is that right, did you at any time pass on information to any official or contact at the United States embassy in Monrovia?

  • Counsel, I really do not understand the question. I would prefer for you to rephrase - you know, to make it clearer to me. Contact, because if you say contact, I did - I can answer the question of contact. I did have --

  • Did you pass on any information to any official? That is the question.

  • Pass on, you know, is another concern for me. What do you mean by pass on?

  • What is the difficulty with pass on? If I hand you this I have passed it on, haven't I? Did you give any information to any official or employee or person at the United States embassy in Monrovia?

  • All right, this is the way I will answer it.

  • I would like the truth.

  • I am going to tell you the truth, sir, and nothing but the truth. In 1996 during the 6 April - during a firefight in the streets of Monrovia which came to be known as the 6 April fighting in the Monrovia when two warring faction leaders, they were on the Council of State, Mr Charles Taylor and Mr Alhaji Kromah, had allied to arrest another warring faction leader called Roosevelt Johnson, I worked with the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission at the time. There was a massive displacement of Liberians in Monrovia and many, many, many thousands of Liberians went to a compound called Greystone. That is G-R-E-Y, I am not sure if it is E-Y or A-Y, stone, S-T-O-N-E. It's a yard - it's a compound leased or owned by the United States embassy.

    They went there to seek refuge from the then progressive fighting in Monrovia. The fighting was coming - was all over the city. So the United States embassy had asked them to leave. They had nowhere to go; thousands of Liberians. Tearfund with which I worked was there in Liberia. It is a British - it's a UK based organisation that provides shelter for refugees and displaced people, Tearfund money, okay. They asked the Liberian government to negotiate with the United States embassy. The United States embassy said it did not trust any Liberian politician because if they negotiated with them they wouldn't come for these people because they said that they thought that the Liberian politicians did not care about their own people. So I was asked to go and speak with them. Prior to that I had had absolutely no contact with any official of the United States embassy.

    I went and introduced myself to one of the embassy officials and I told him that my name was Hassan Bility and that I worked with the - with a joint programme run by the Liberian Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission, LRRRC, and Tearfund, a UK based organisation, I was the coordinator and that I was requesting a time frame of three to four days to allow the displaced Liberians to stay in their Greystone yard compound within which time I would be able to negotiate land deals with settlements like in Dixville, Plunkor and Coffee Farm. Dixville is in Upper Caldwell, Monrovia, outside Monrovia. Plunkor is also somewhere on the road to Tubmanburg, you know, and Coffee Farm is in Upper Caldwell.

    They said that I spoke with someone they could trust, my first ever contact, and they gave me three days to build the shelters, to build tarpaulin to move the refugees, the displaced there. That was my first contact which was done successfully.

    The second contacts or the second contact or whatever contacts came after I did not pass on. That is what I want the clarification on that two words itself. I did not like pass on. My understanding of pass on. What I did, I had friends in the United States embassy and those friends were the political counsellors and human rights officer. What I did, we had dinners at some point and we share our opinions on the prevailing circumstances in Liberia, and they asked me questions on certain issues and I asked them questions on certain issues, but it wasn't like I collected information from here to there. No, I mean, as a journalist, and what prompted that was my first contact in that context I was looking for confirmation of a news story regarding the murder of the late Samuel Dokie and his family who had been placed in a car and burned beyond recognition. I went to - I called an embassy official because they had, one of the embassy officials, Liberian staff, had told me that they had got information that Samuel Dokie's body was found in Bomi instead of Bong County. So I called the political consulate office to get confirmation and to also ask if it were true that Mr Taylor was still needed by a Massachusetts - in Massachusetts, you know, where he was alleged to have escaped from the Plymouth county jail, and they said to give 24 hours and they will answer me. I said, "Well, I will need to publish this story tomorrow." They said, "Well, you have to wait." I waited 24 hours. I got the information from them and I published this story. So that was the beginning of my contacts with them. We had dinners outside of the embassy. We talked like friends. We share opinions and those were political counsellors and one human rights officer at the United States embassy, clear.

  • Have you finished?

  • Well, can I seek to clarify one or two things that you have just said: Firstly, when you were told by someone at the embassy that they didn't trust any Liberian politician, did that include Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf?

  • I - the embassy official did not elaborate. What the embassy official said was that - but my personal inference is there, is different. But what the embassy official said that if the Liberian, if they listened to the Liberian politicians to tell them to allow the displaced persons to stay in their compound, and at certain point they will find place for them to remove them, that they will not do it; they will keep them there forever. So, they did not want displaced persons to remain there forever. It was that context in which the US official was speaking.

  • Secondly this: If I understand what you have told us, prior to 1998 you had no contact with officials at the US embassy in Monrovia but thereafter - or you with persons employed at the US consulate in Monrovia, but thereafter you met more than one of them on dinner dates. Is that right?

  • Objection. I am sure it was misspoken but the witness said 1996 was his first contact.

  • That makes it worse. So before 1996 there had been no contact, but after 1996 you had repeated contacts including dinner dates with persons employed at that embassy. Is that right?

  • I think, counsel, that is an inaccurate description of what I said. What I did say was that my first contact, which was on humanitarian basis, was done in 1996. My second and other contacts started after that. '97, '98 - '97 was in line with clarification on a story which headline was "Samuel Dokie feared dead" and the next contact was '98, the April - what is it called - September 18 fire fights and stuff like that.

  • So, are we to understand that your contact with persons at the US embassy in Monrovia was infrequent?

  • Yes, it was infrequent.

  • The next point of clarification is this: You told us that the persons with whom you had met were political officers attached to the embassy. Is that right?

  • Besides the first contact, yes, the other contacts were political and human rights officers - I mean counsellors attached to the embassy, correct.

  • You may be able to help us with this, Mr Bility: Is it not the case that the term "political officer" is a code name for the chief of the CIA establishment at an embassy? I see Mr Koumjian laughing at the back. Obviously he knows something I don't.

  • Sir, this is my answer. I have never, ever worked with a security agency, whether in Liberia or the US government, so I don't know that. What I do know is that political officers - I don't know that political officers are spies in US embassies and the ones that I have met, certainly in my judgment, didn't look like that.

  • What does a spy look like?

  • I don't know. I mean, they didn't ask questions relative to spying questions which the opinions we shared were relevant to the welfare - the general welfare - of the people and that was it. It wasn't like, you know, what is he doing or something. These were talks that were going on and at least more than - I mean, there were other people, journalists, lawyers, you know, taxi drivers, from different walks of life who knew of these things. Now, if you want to ask me about some of these things that we talked about, I will be perfectly willing to tell you.

  • No, thank you.

  • These weren't things that were hidden from the public eyes. These were stuff that the public knew full well and these were things that now will appear in - on the radio talk show that I will talk about and discuss, you know, that people knew about them and these were issues that were printed, reported in newspapers, so those who were the kind of things that we talked and shared opinion on.

  • Help me with this: What are the names of the persons you were having dinner with and chatting to at the US embassy in Monrovia?

  • If the court thinks it is relevant, sir, I will give the names.

  • I will be stopped if the question is irrelevant. What are the names of the individuals, please?

  • Okay. Human rights officer, Deborah Hart, and I will also tell you the instances or what prompted some of the contacts. Human rights officer --

  • No, can we just start with the names first and then you can elaborate. Who else?

  • Right. Human rights officer Deborah Hart, political counsellors Anthony Newton and - what is the guy's name - political counsellor Anthony Newton and Hartford Jennings.

  • Hartford. Hartford.

  • What was his role? We will come back to the spelling?

  • They were political counsellors.

  • So he is a political counsellor as well?

  • They were - these guys, these two guys were political counsellors at different times. That is Hartford Jennings and Tony Newton.

  • Deborah Hart was human rights officer. It was a new position, I think created as a result of the human rights concerns in Liberia at that specific embassy.

  • Now, let's just pause for a moment and deal with some spellings?

  • Anthony Newton, A-N-T-H-O-N-Y, surname N-E-W-T-O-N, would you agree?

  • Deborah Hart D-E-B-O-R-A-H, surname H-A-R-T, is that correct?

  • T what?

  • I think "S", Harts. I am not 100 per cent sure, yeah.

  • Hartford Jennings, H-A-R-F-O-R-D J-E-N-N-I-N-G-S, am I correct?

  • No, H-A-R-T, Hartford Jennings, J-E-N-N-I-N-G-S.

  • And what about someone called John Bowman?

  • Yes, sir, I did meet with John Bowman in 1998.

  • He was the deputy chief of mission at the time during the September 18th 1998 fighting - fire fights in the streets of Monrovia.

  • How many times did you meet him?

  • John Bowman, I think I must have met - I am not sure, but I think I must have met him twice or maybe thrice. Two times or maybe three times.

  • And what about the American ambassador? What was his name?

  • I - which American ambassador?

  • I have never met an American ambassador.

  • You have never met the US ambassador to Liberia?

  • The United States has had over ten ambassadors to Liberia, so --

  • Well, help me. Have you met any of them?

  • I met John Blaney when - during my release from prison.

  • How do you spell the surname?

  • So you met him. Did you meet any other American ambassador?

  • Well, I met John Blaney, I was in jail, I was released to him. That is the point I met him, being released. I did not meet any other United States ambassador accredited to Liberia, never.

  • And in fact you were released into his custody, weren't you?

  • Per the demand of the Liberian government. It was a prerequisite, sir, to my release.

  • You were handed into his custody, though, weren't you?

  • Custody? I am not thinking - I am not sure, sir, that that is an accurate description of what happened.

  • Well, give us an accurate one then.

  • Fine. The United States ambassador, along with a few US embassy officials, went to the NBI prison compound. The Liberian defence minister at the time Daniel Chea, C-H-E-A, was there, the director of the National Bureau of Investigation at the time was Freddy Taylor because he had been - he had swapped position with the then director of the NBI, so he had moved from NSA to NBI, Freddy Taylor. Benjamin Yeaten, with a number of other Liberian government officials and security personnel. So what happened, the United States ambassador and his charge, John Blaney, actually was there to make sure that I was released so I was handed to him. I was taken out of prison and he brought some change of clothing for me because I didn't have the opportunity to take anything. That is he, the ambassador. Put in a car which was in a convoy - the ambassador remained in his own car, I was put in a military pick-up truck, with several other cars - we drove from the prison compound, the prison compound, to Robertsfield, to the airport. So it wasn't like I was handed over to him and he says, "Okay, let's go. I am taking you now." No. The Liberian - I asked the ambassador at the airport, I said, "But why are these government officials with me, Daniel Chea, ministers and other people?" He said, "Well, the Liberian government had instructed that they make sure they witness your physical departure." So I was then handed over to him for - handed over to him like - that is why I said - that is my description of what happened.

  • I asked the question for good reason. Help me: The plane which flew you out of Robertsfield airfield, who chartered it?

  • Come on, Mr Bility, who chartered the plane that flew you to Accra in Ghana?

  • Sir, there were other passengers on the plane. Wherever you got that information --

  • I didn't ask you about the other passengers. My question is simple: Who chartered the plane?

  • I do not know because it was --

  • It was chartered by the United States government, wasn't it?

  • It certainly did not look like that because the plane was full with other passengers travelling to Accra, Ghana. Look at the manifest, December 7th 2002, a Ghana Airway flight, I think it was. You can summon the manifest and you will see a variety of other passengers. Unless the United States also had interests in the welfare of all of those passengers who had come from different countries, landed in Liberia, and picked up other passengers.

  • Mr Witness, please answer the question directly and don't make extraneous comments.

  • Thank you, your Honour. The answer to the question from me is that I do not know who chartered the plane.

  • Let me be quite clear what the position is that I am putting to you.

  • What I am putting is that you were released into the custody of the US ambassador; they were anxious to ensure your safe passage out of the country because you had been a reliable source of information to them and consequently they chartered a plane and flew you to Accra and from there you went to live in the United States. Is that not right?

  • No, that is not accurate, sir.

  • What is wrong with it?

  • It is not a statement of fact. The first part that suggests or that states that they had interests in me because I had been a source of reliable information to the United States is totally erroneous and false.

  • Very well. I want to move on to another topic, but we won't complete it before our morning break. But what I would like to do please now, Mr Bility, is this: I would like, with your assistance, please, to trace the 20 year period between the coming to power of Corporal Doe in - Master Sergeant Doe in 1977 and the elections in July 1997 in Liberia. Do you follow me? Yes? In 1977, you would have been eight years old, wouldn't you? You were born in '69. Nodding doesn't help us, Mr Bility.

  • Witness, you keep nodding your head. That can't be recorded on the transcript. Would you answer verbally, please?

  • So you were eight years old in 1997. However - 1977, sorry. However, given your later employment as a journalist, no doubt you are aware of the course of Liberian politics over the 20 years between 1977 and 1997. You are, aren't you?

  • Now, you appreciate, don't you, that in 1997 Liberian army Master Sergeant Samuel Doe, a member of the Krahn ethnic group, seized power in a bloody coup ending the 133 year rule of the Americo-Liberian True Whig Party, do you agree?

  • That is totally wrong, inaccurate, and it is not accurate, it is not true.

  • Sorry, my fault. I was looking at a document I have prepared but I have got the dates wrong. That was in 1980, wasn't it?

  • Yes.

  • But do you agree that he was a member of the Krahn ethnic group?

  • Do you agree that it was a bloody coup?

  • Do you agree that it ended the 133 year rule of the Americo-Liberian True Whig Party?

  • Do you agree that Doe's troops thereafter assassinated President William Tolbert?

  • Thereafter, thereafter what? I don't understand that, sir.

  • Let me put it differently: Did Doe's troops assassinate President William Tolbert?

  • Did they also execute 13 of his cabinet ministers?

  • Did they also imprison dozens of government officials?

  • I do know that they imprisoned some of them. Dozens in terms of number, I am not like 100 per cent sure about that.

  • Is it right that they thereafter established the People's Redemption Council as the new ruling political entity?

  • Would you agree that under the Doe administration members of the Krahn ethnic group came to dominate Liberian politics and government?

  • My personal opinion, sir, and observation? Is that what you want?

  • Well, I would like a factual answer. Is that true or false? Yes or no would suit my purposes.

  • Sir, I cannot give a factual answer to that question because I don't know specifically what number of - how many of each of the 16 ethnic groups was in the government. What I do remember was that Doe - that what I did read and do remember is that Samuel Doe held a press conference to say, that suggested, I mean by calling out names of different ethnic groups that were in his government, and he was trying to portray the fact that there were more Manos and Gios in his government than even his own ethnic group. I do remember that. But I also do know that there were many ethnic Krahn people in the government. Whether they were more than other ethnic groups I can't say that for a fact.

  • Would you agree that with the coming to power of the Doe regime ethnicity became a major issue in Liberian daily life and politics?

  • Well, I would say, instead of saying became a major issue, I would say it became a highlighted point.

  • The profile of such issues became much higher?

  • Honestly, I can't say for a fact. What I can say based on what I think is - better describes what my opinion is - is that it became a highlighted issue. I am not saying that it became high profile. Highlighted issue. People began to notice more and more what their identities were, but I am not sure if it served as a political trump card to a political position of eminence. I am not saying it is not true; I am not just sure about that, sir.

  • Very well. We will leave that. Moving on. Under the Doe regime this man, Charles Taylor, became head of a government department, didn't he?

  • Yes, sir.

  • What was the title of that department?

  • General Services Agency, GSA.

  • What were the responsibilities of that agency?

  • Well, I really have not read the specifics of the responsibilities of that agency. What I do know from reading, casual reading of manuals and stuff, is that the agency is a government agency responsible for general procurement of government property.

  • Thank you. Now, as a result of allegations of embezzlement Mr Taylor, the head of that department, fled from Liberia in 1983 to the United States, didn't he?

  • He fled from Liberia, yes, sir.

  • And went to the United States, didn't he?

  • Well, he was finally in the United States. I am not sure specifically where he went to when he left Liberia immediately, but he showed up in the United States.

  • And he was accused of embezzlement by the Doe regime, wasn't he?

  • Correct. That is correct.

  • Now, five years after seizing power brutally, Doe's national - Doe called an election, didn't he, in 1985?

  • And his party, the National Democratic Party, unsurprisingly won the election. Is that right?

  • His party, that is correct. The National Democratic Party is not correct.

  • What was his party called?

  • National Democratic Party of Liberia.

  • Of Liberia, my fault, and I am grateful for your assistance with that, but in any event he did win the election, yes?

  • I will say he was declared the winner. I wouldn't say he won it. I think he was named the winner of the election.

  • Now there was widespread criticism of that election, wasn't there?

  • But it was nonetheless greeted with approval by the then US government, wasn't it?

  • Approval, the result of the election weren't greeted, as far as what my readings are concerned, the United States didn't say "Well, good job. Well done. You have won an election." I mean, Doe was declared the winner amidst suspicious and controversial circumstances and at some point later on the United States government decided to work with him, but they did not initially like greet the elections result with approval. It was - as a matter of fact it was President Reagan so --

  • Do you not recall that the then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs declared that well, at least it was an election. Do you remember that comment?

  • Yes, I do - I did read that comment that it was an election and can I further speak, your Honour?

  • I think you have answered the question, Mr Witness.

  • I think he has answered the question and I see the time.

  • We have two minute us left, Mr Griffiths.

  • Another question: Now in November 1985 a former army general, Thomas Quiwonkpa, led an invasion of rebel forces into Liberia in an attempt to overthrow the Doe regime, didn't he?

  • Yes, sir; specifically 12 November 1985.

  • Madam President, I wonder if that would be a convenient time and I say that for this reason: Before your Honours rise there is a short matter I would like to canvass with you regarding timing, which need not detain the witness.

  • Very well. I just heard the alert that may say it is two minutes but you wish to deal with something in the absence of the witness, is that my understanding?

  • Yes, please, Madam President.

  • Mr Witness, we are now about to take our mid-morning break, which you know is half an hour. You are at liberty to leave the Court and you will be assisted to leave. We are going to deal with some procedural matter that does not involve your evidence.

  • Thanks. Can I leave now?

  • [In the absence of the witness]

  • Madam President, I have an application to make and it is simply this: I wonder if I could crave your Honours' indulgence that we have an extra 15 minutes for this break. A matter has arisen which I need to discuss first with my co-counsel and then with Mr Taylor and it may require some detailed considerations on our part, and I can assure your Honours that one possible outcome of our discussions is that my cross-examination might be shortened quite considerably.

  • We do not see that as a problem and we grant the application, Mr Griffiths, and the mid-morning break will then take from now to 12.15 and the Court will resume at 12.15.

  • I am most grateful.

  • Please adjourn the Court until 12.15.

  • [Break taken at 11.30 p.m.]

  • [Upon resuming at 12.15 p.m.]

  • Mr Santora, you're on your feet.

  • Just a quick note of change of appearance.

  • Mr Koumjian is not with the Prosecution at this point.

  • Thank you, Mr Santora. Mr Griffiths, before I invite you to proceed on with your cross-examination, I would just like to raise a brief procedural matter. We have brought to our notice document 704, that is a notice of change in witness status should the Trial Chamber grant the Prosecution motion to call additional witnesses which has been filed by the Prosecution, and we note that the Defence made submissions in relation to an original motion by the Prosecution dealing with that same witness and we have noted the submissions of the Defence. We have in mind to deal with the document 704 orally in the light of your prior submissions. However, before doing so we would ask if you have any reply or comment to make on that notice?

  • Could I have a moment?

  • Yes, I was going to invite you to indicate if you required time.

  • Madam President, we're slightly in the dark. We suspect we know what this is about. Is it about a particular individual called Tariq Malik.

  • It is. It is a public document and it is a notice by the Prosecution stating - and I quote now - that:

    "In view of the change, the Prosecution wish to give the Chamber and Defence fair notice to assist the parties that they intend to call Mr Malik as a witness viva voce."

  • We have no objection.

  • Thank you for that, Mr Griffiths. We will consider this and give a decision in due course.

  • If you now wish to proceed with your cross-examination, please do so.

  • Before we adjourned, Mr Bility, I was asking you about the intervention by Thomas Quiwonkpa in 1985. Do you remember?

  • And you helpfully told us that that took place in November 1985, yes?

  • Now Quiwonkpa's attempted rebellion was an abject failure, wasn't it?

  • Quiwonkpa himself was captured by Doe's forces, wasn't he?

  • Yes, sir, the Government of Liberia under Samuel Doe did announce that they had - that they captured and killed General Thomas Gonkama Quiwonkpa.

  • They didn't just kill him though, did they?

  • What do you mean, sir?

  • Did anything else happen to him after he was killed?

  • In terms of a statement of fact I cannot say that, but what I did hear from other people - other Liberians - that, yes, something else did happen to him.

  • What I did hear was that he was - I'm not sure if that's the right word for me to use, like butchered, cut and his stomach opened. I'm not sure if that was by a sharp object like a knife, or by the rifle used. As I said, I did not personally see that.

  • Is it also right that some of his body parts were eaten by Doe's soldiers?

  • I don't know that for a fact, sir.

  • Did you hear of that?

  • I did hear that, like I heard many other rumours surrounding that particular incident.

  • Now as a consequence of that failed attempted coup, Doe's government launched a bloody purge against the Gio and Mano ethnic groups in Quiwonkpa's Nimba County, didn't he?

  • Well, I - what I do know is that Doe's military soldiers went to Nimba County where the government of Doe said were accomplices of Thomas Quiwonkpa and arrested them and in some instances killed them.

  • Now, remember we're here talking to a journalist who professes an interest in human rights abuses. What Doe's forces did in Nimba County was a major atrocity, wasn't it, Mr Bility?

  • Counsel, I did not have firsthand information on that. However I do believe in human rights and its protections and if what I heard happened did actually happen of course those actions are tantamount to gross human rights abuses, correct, and I would also like to state that I am from Nimba County as well.

  • But you're a Mandingo, not a Gio or a Mano, aren't you?

  • That's correct, sir.

  • Thank you. And we're talking about thousands of Gios and Manos being killed by Doe's rampaging forces, aren't we?

  • Well, sir, I'd like a clarification. Are you talking about the facts of the statement, or are you talking about the historicity of what happened?

  • I'm talking about the history because you would have been 16 at the time, but you're a man who, given your interest, one would have expected to research these matters?

  • Certainly I did, sir.

  • And as a matter of history thousands of Gios and Manos were killed, weren't they?

  • I cannot say for a fact if the number was in the tens, hundreds or thousands. The reason for that is that let's remember that you still had Samuel Doe as President of Liberia during this period and accounts that will have appeared in the newspaper, like under President Taylor's government, in my opinion would have been very selective in coming out with numbers and so I'm not sure as to whether the number of people killed was in the tens, thousands or hundreds. I did hear from a lot of people - and there isn't much reading material on this as well, let's remember that, but I did hear that tens and possibly hundred plus persons were killed.

  • And it's right, is it not, that at this time there was an alliance between Doe's Krahn ethnic group and the Mandingo ethnic group, wasn't there?

  • Once again, counsel, I would like you to provide for me, a non-lawyer, a working definition for that word "alliance".

  • Were they not working together?

  • Were they not the predominant ethnic groups in the army and government at the time of that purge in Nimba County?

  • That is a complete misrepresentation of the fact, counsel, and that statement is diametrically opposed to what the situation was. This is the fact: Mandingos prior to 24 December 1989 war were generally traders, business people. They were mechanics, taxi drivers, small business owners, you know, basically in the fabric of the economy in that way. They weren't in any way plenty in the - you know, represented largely in the military. It was after the war started that some asked their children to join the military since in their subjective views it was Mandingos who were being persecuted along with the Gio and there is, counsel, a history behind that.

    So to answer your question more directly, Mandingos were not - they probably constituted the lowest percentage of the military if you took it on an ethnic basis. They didn't have interests in the military, they didn't have interests in education. The only interest they had was purely --

  • [Technical fault]

  • [Break taken at 12.27 p.m.]

  • [Upon resuming at 2.30 p.m.]

  • I appreciate that the witness was partly through an answer, but if it is convenient for counsel I would like to give an oral decision before we proceed on with his evidence.

  • Very well.

  • Thank you, Mr Griffiths. I should also for purposes of record, since it would appear that we rose and didn't resume for about two hours, that was an electrical fuse problem that left the Court inoperative as far as light and electrical supplies was concerned.

    I'm now giving an oral ruling on motion 683. The Prosecution originally filed its Prosecution motion for leave to call an additional witness and notice to admit witness's solemn declaration and in the alternative for admission of solemn declaration, that's motion 683, seeking (1), leave to add Mr Tariq Malik as a witness to the Prosecution witness list and if granted to approve the disclosure of his solemn declaration and (2) to seek to admit the declaration into evidence pursuant to Rule 92 bis or alternatively to admit the declaration under Rule 98(C) [sic].

    The Defence do not oppose the motion to add Mr Malik to the Prosecution witness list, but object to the admission of a solemn declaration under Rule 92 bis or 89(C) absent "the opportunity for cross-examination".

    The Prosecution has given notice on 6 January 2009 on notice 704 stating, "Should the Trial Chamber grant the Prosecution motion for leave to add Mr Malik as a witness the Prosecution now wishes to call Mr Malik to give evidence viva voce rather than pursuant to Rule 92 bis."

    We consider it in the interests of justice to permit the Prosecutor, pursuant to Rule 73 bis (E), to add Mr Malik to the Prosecution witness list. The other request for alternative relief in the motion are thereby rendered redundant.

    That is the end of the ruling. Please proceed, Mr Griffiths.

  • Mr Bility, in light of --

  • Just pause, Mr Griffiths, please. I am not sure if it's the transcript or my transposition but it has been correctly pointed out by my colleague that at page 64 of line 7, there's a reference to Rule 98(C) which should read alternatively to admit the declaration under 89(C). That is either my fault or that of the transposition. Sorry, please proceed, Mr Griffiths.

  • In light of the unfortunate point at which we stopped, Mr Bility, I wonder if I could just take you back. I was asking you about the ethnic impact of the Doe's regime's incursion into Nimba County following the unsuccessful coup attempt by General Thomas Quiwonkpa. Do you remember that now?

  • Yes, I do, but I'm a little bit confused. Did you say the incursion into Nimba County?

  • Yes, I did.

  • All right. Then I think that's not correct because the incursion was not through Nimba County. If we're referring to Thomas Quiwonkpa's 1985 aborted invasion, it was through Grand Cape Mount County, through Monrovia. It was in Monrovia through Grand Cape Mount County and Grand Cape Mount County is to the west of Monrovia, while Nimba County is to the north of Monrovia.

  • It's my fault. What I was actually asking you about was, I was asking you about the retribution wreaked by Doe's forces in Nimba County following that unsuccessful coup attempt. Now you accept, don't you, that it was the Gios and the Manos who were the main victims of that incursion into Nimba County by Doe's forces following the failed coup? You agree, don't you?

  • I do agree --

  • -- counsel that - I do agree that the Government of Liberia then under Samuel Doe President did tell the Liberian people that most of the alleged culprits were in Nimba County and that it was pursuing them in Nimba County. Subsequently, we did see and hear about some deaths and of course in some cases some harassment against the Manos and Gios in Nimba County.

  • Mass murders took place in that county, committed by Doe's forces. That's right, isn't it?

  • Counsel, I'm not a spokesperson for the Doe's government. What I do know is that there were reports, generally by words of mouth, that there were murders committed by Doe's forces in Nimba County. I was stationed - I lived in Monrovia and I'm not sure that I saw written - actual written accounts, either in the newspapers or heard them on the radio, regarding mass murder. I'm not saying it didn't happen. I'm saying that from my position in Liberia at the time, Monrovia, we didn't - I did not see written accounts of mass murders.

  • Now, the Doe forces who went into Nimba County seeking retribution were led by one General Juru, weren't they?

  • Honestly, I'm not sure who --

  • No, my fault. It's Julu, J-U-L-U?

  • Right; I'm quite familiar with the name. I'm not just sure of who led because if leading in that case would have been a specific order from Doe. But I do know that Charles Julu did go into Nimba County and there were many accounts from civilians about what he did there.

  • Right. Now, to conclude this particular episode, would you agree with the following propositions: Firstly, by the end of that government operation in Nimba County in retribution, the seeds had been laid for anti-Krahn, anti-Mandingo sentiments in that county?

  • Very well. Would you agree that as a consequence of the scorched earth policies pursued by General Julu in Nimba County it created favourable ground for the NPFL invasion in December 1989?

  • Can you please repeat that question, please.

  • Would you agree that as a result of the atrocities committed by Doe's forces in Nimba County, primarily against the Gios and Manos, that the ground was laid for those people to welcome with open arms the NPFL invaders, some would say liberators, in December 1989?

  • I have a different perspective regarding that and because of my perspective I disagree with that conclusion, that it was a result of that 1985 aborted invasion and its subsequently reported murders in Nimba County that laid the groundworks, that planted the seeds for hatred or whatever retribution that may have resulted therefrom against the Krahns and Mandingos. My perspective is different, sir.

  • Would you not agree --

  • I'm sorry to interrupt but, Mr Griffiths, didn't you refer to a different group? You referred to the Gios and the Manos.

  • The witness is speaking about the Krahns and the Mandingos.

  • And I'm particularly interested in the Gios and the Manos you see, Mr Bility, and what I'm asking is this: You have this situation: Two particular ethnic groups in Nimba County have been targeted and persecuted by Doe's forces who are primarily Krahns and Mandingos. What then happens is in December 1989, not by chance, the invasion led by the NPFL enters through Nimba County and they are welcomed by the Manos and the Gios who had been persecuted three years prior. My question is: Do you agree that what Doe's forces did in Nimba County in 1985 laid the ground for the welcome received by the NPFL forces when they invaded on 24 December 1989?

  • Counsel, I am responding that I disagree because I do have a different perspective regarding that, the 1985 situation. I do think though that the seed of discord, the seed of disagreement or whatever it may be termed, had been planted way before 1985. 1985 episodes may have been - may have been - in part a contributing factor but was not the contributing factor. That's what I'm saying.

  • Do I understand you correctly then that your point is that there had been a much longer history of conflict between those two parties and that the events of 1985 was but a further episode in that on-running history of disagreement?

  • Counsel, that is not my point. If you will ask me I will explain my perspective, but that is not my point, sir.

  • Very well. Well, I'm not going to engage in a debate about the history because the point I'm trying to establish is very simple, so I'll move on. In 1986, on 6 January, do you recall that a new constitution was adopted in Liberia?

  • And under the terms of that constitution "all people of Negro descent" were eligible to become citizens of Liberia?

  • Can you please repeat that?

  • Under the terms of that new constitution "all people of Negro descent" were eligible to become citizens of Liberia?

  • Thank you. Now do you also recall now that around about 1987 - now you would have been about 18 years old at the time so I think I can ask you this question, but in 1987 do you recall stories were filtering back to Liberia that there was a group of expatriate Liberians training in Libya?

  • I am not sure that I did hear those pieces of information around 1987.

  • Very well. In any event you certainly recall the events of 24 December 1989, don't you?

  • When NPFL forces invaded Nimba County - some would say liberated Nimba County - having entered the country via the Cote d'Ivoire. Is that right?

  • Now let us just pause for a moment please, Mr Bility, in light of your later concerns and just discuss for a moment some of the implications of that. Firstly, you accept, don't you, that these forces invaded from the Cote d'Ivoire, yes?

  • You appreciate, don't you, that those forces must have gained assistance from the government of the Cote d'Ivoire?

  • Do I appreciate, or did I appreciate that?

  • Either then or now do you appreciate that the NPFL forces who invaded Liberia must have received support from the government of the Cote d'Ivoire?

  • Counsel, I'm not in a position to say they did receive support from Cote d'Ivoire under the late Houphouet-Boigny. What I am in position to say is that they did receive cooperation from security forces in the Cote d'Ivoire, because in our observation and understanding the late President Boigny had by then become prisoner of age and illness and was really not in a better position to make a determination regarding the activities of the then NPFL through its land borders with Liberia.

  • And of course one detail you can help me with is this. The President of the Cote d'Ivoire Boigny's daughter had been married to Tolbert's son, wasn't she? President Tolbert's son?

  • Yeah, I understand. That's Adolphus Benedict Tolbert.

  • The son of President Tolbert in question was called Adolphus Benedict Tolbert.

  • And did he have a relationship with Boigny's daughter?

  • Well Boigny's daughter, whether a biological, adopted, or --

  • What we do know is that a woman who was variously referred to as Boigny's adopted daughter, Boigny's daughter, was married to the son of the late William Richard Tolbert called Adolphus Benedict Tolbert.

  • And he had been murdered by Doe's forces?

  • So putting all of that together, the NPFL enters Liberia from a neighbouring country, the President of which had perhaps good reason to want to see the back of Doe?

  • Does that require an answer from me, counsel?

  • I wouldn't mind.

  • Well, as far as the President of Cote d'Ivoire was concerned and if we approach him with all fairness, he repeatedly said on radio, or in comments, that he was not I know in any way supporting the NPFL. He did not admit to it. So whether he may have had - he might have had a good reason to see that happen, my opinion regarding that is that that was subjective. If he chose to do that, he didn't say that.

  • But let's add another dimension to this discussion, shall we? It was also apparent, was it not, that the NPFL forces had received substantial support from the government of Burkina Faso?

  • Not according to the Burkina Faso government admitting publicly, but we - many people, like in the case of Cote d'Ivoire, were convinced based on what they considered evidence, or pieces of evidence, that the Burkina Faso government was supporting and/or assisting the National Patriotic Front of Liberia led by Mr Charles Taylor.

  • So, we now have this situation. On the face of it two West African governments are sponsoring a rebel movement, or assisting or enabling a rebel movement, aiding and abetting a rebel movement, to overthrow the government of another West African country, would you agree?

  • Conceptually, yeah, I would.

  • If we jump forward to March 1991, yes, we have one African government supporting a rebellion to overthrow a government in another African country, Liberia and Sierra Leone, don't we?

  • Can you please repeat that question, sir.

  • If we jump forward to March 1991 we have another situation where a party in one African country is sponsoring a rebellion in a neighbouring African country to overthrow the government of that latter country, would you agree?

  • A party in what country? Is it Liberia, or are you still referring to Burkina?

  • I'm referring to the RUF invasion of Sierra Leone.

  • Can you see any conceptual difference between December 1989 and March 1991?

  • The difference I do see here is that neither the government of Cote d'Ivoire, nor the government of Burkina Faso under Blaise Compaore, did admit publicly on radio that they were supporting the government - I mean the NPFL in its war to unseat the Liberian government. However, on the other hand President Charles Taylor then --

  • Hold on, can I interrupt. I'm sorry, but you can continue. President Charles Taylor or leader of the NPFL Charles Taylor, do you understand me?

  • Yeah, I do. The leader --

  • Which one are you talking about?

  • I'm referring to the leader of the NPFL, Mr Charles Ghankay Taylor, said on the British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, that because Sierra Leone had accepted to host ECOMOG, the Economic Community Monitoring Group, a military group that had expressed its intention to stabilise and - destabilise the war in Liberia and separate the warring factions, that because Sierra Leone had agreed to do that he would attack Sierra Leone and that he would make Sierra Leone to taste the war.

    So, in that respect there is a difference. The Presidents of Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso did not admit publicly. The leader of the NPFL in his capacity as the NPFL did in fact announce that and, of course, I heard that and he made that clear to me when he became President in his statements and in his actions. This is after July 1997. So the conceptual difference there is that the NPFL leader Charles Taylor had conceived this idea as far back as the early '90s and he followed through with it after he became President of the Republic of Liberia. So that's the major difference there that I see.

  • So if I can try to bring to its essence what you're telling us, the major distinction between the role played by Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso in 1989 and Charles Taylor in 1991 is that Charles Taylor had the honesty of stating as much publicly. Is that right?

  • Well Charles Taylor as the leader of the NPFL did state publicly in the form of threat and as President, yes, that's what I'm saying, whilst the other two leaders did not admit to that as far as my understanding is concerned.

  • Very well, let's move on. So we appreciate now what the point of difference is conceptually between the two events. Moving on, was the vision of the NPFL to overthrow the corrupt, vicious Doe regime justified?

  • Can you please restate that question.

  • Of course I will. Is it justifiable for the people of a country labouring under an unjust and vicious regime - is it justifiable for them to seek to topple and overthrow that regime?

  • Yes, please.

  • Well, my understanding is that the question is - the two questions are different. The first one was more about the NPFL and Liberia and --

  • Oh, so you did understand it.

  • The first one because I heard "Liberia" and the second one is general if it is justifiable for a people to unseat or remove a government that is abusive, that is brutal and that is against its own citizens. Yes, I think - this is my honest opinion. I do believe that, as long as the charges against said government is justified, I do think that the people have the right to change their government. You didn't ask me a question regarding methodology.

  • Oh, I was coming to that. Don't worry.

  • Okay. So in concept, yeah, I think it's justified to have a change of government.

  • Taking it another stage further then, is it justifiable for said people to use force to overthrow an unjust and vicious government?

  • Counsel, I guess you are asking my opinion, not to make a statement of fact, which is --

  • I'm asking your opinion because I'm coming to a question of fact.

  • Great. I think the question of justification of a people using force to remove government or governments - my opinion is that question is scenario dependent. That depends on specific scenarios and therefore it would differ from people to people, from country to country. Countries will adopt, people who adopt different methodology regarding that, so it's scenario dependent.

  • Well, let me see if I can address your intellectual confusion on the topic. Take a situation where you have a Master Sergeant Doe who assassinates the sitting President, who when - who murders a number of members of the government of that President, and then when a few years later someone tries to lead a coup against him not only does he kill that person, he eats him as well, and thereafter sends his general into Nimba County to murder members of a particular ethnic group, now, does that scenario sound familiar? Does it sound like Liberia under Master Sergeant Doe? Does it?

  • That scenario is very familiar and that scenario is something that is familiar with Liberia and I would also add that what is familiar not in any way trying to be a spokesperson for anybody, what happened in 1980, 1990 - 1989 were all incidents that, in my opinion, you know, that led to the murder of many people. So the characterisation is not what I'm concerned about.

    What I'm - you know, what I'm saying is that whether it was between 1847 to 1980, 133 years where less than five per cent of the Liberian population controlled and ruled the country and one party states, or whether it was 1971 to 1980, when President Tolbert was President --

  • Mr Witness, you seem to have gone back in history where the question put to you was: Does it sound like Liberia under Master Sergeant Doe. You've gone back 133 years. Please address yourself to the question.

  • Well, those were events, some accurate, some inaccurate, that definitely obtained in Liberia between 12 April 1980 and the beginning of the war in Liberia.

  • So I'm going to ask you now very bluntly: Was Charles Taylor justified, given the history of the Doe regime, to attempt to overthrow it?

  • I do not in any way believe in the use of guns that would subsequently lead to the murder of over 200,000 people, that would also lead to the creation of a warring faction and fighting proxy war in neighbouring countries as justified, not in any way, and I believe that.

  • So your position is Charles Taylor had no right or justification to try and overthrow the Doe regime?

  • Well, I couldn't say, counsel, that he had no right. He's a Liberian citizen, he could do what he wanted to do. As per the justification aspect, my opinion regarding that would be subjective, would be what I feel. There may be other people who thought that the war led by Mr Charles Taylor was justified, but I do really not believe that, especially taking into consideration what happened in the historical parenthesis of 24 December 1989 and July 19 - well, up to the election in July 1997 - could have been justified by anybody.

  • Can I take it then, given the pacifist position you adopt, no guns, that you would not support the use of arms in any situation?

  • Counsel, as I have said, sir, that a choice by a people to use - I mean to unseat a government --

  • I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr Bility. I'm not interested in a people; I'm interested now in you. Are you saying that under no circumstances would you, Hassan Bility, support the use of arms for any objective?

  • If you say support, what do you mean? What are you referring to? I would, I wouldn't --

  • Support, you know, like when you follow someone, you try and help them, you know, like the foundations of a building, you know that kind of support?

  • Well, I personally wouldn't use arms to unseat a government.

  • Were you, Hassan Bility, ever a supporter of ULIMO-K?

  • Is Alhaji Kromah, the founder and leader of ULIMO-K, a relative of yours?

  • Well, Alhaji --

  • -- Alhaji Kromah is no relative of mine. First, I hail from Nimba County, Alhaji Kromah comes from Lofa County. Second, I am a Koniaka-Mandingo. Alhaji Kromah is a Gbonika-Mandingo, if you understand Mandingo, there is a --

  • Sorry, no, I'm from Kingston, Jamaica.

  • Right. So there is no way that Alhaji Kromah ever was or is a relative of mine. I do know, however, that Alhaji Kromah did head ULIMO-K. I also do know that he was not a founder of - he was not the founder of ULIMO.

  • Mr Witness, you referred to two Mandingo groups; could we please have spellings of those names.

  • Right. Well, the spelling may not be standard because it is an African name so I will spell it, you know, in terms of syllables. Koniaka is K-O-N-I-A-K-A. Gbonika is G-B-O-N-I-K-A. And they are different especially in terms of accents. Like the British accent, American accent, they are different. And we are not related in any way. He is a Kromah, I am a Bility.

  • Thank you for that clarification and the spelling. Mr Griffiths, proceed.

  • Do you know someone called Konnoh, K-O-N-N-O-H. Maybe I've pronounced it incorrectly.

  • I know probably about 50 people who are Konneh.

  • Do you know one who was a very senior member of ULIMO?

  • I know a lot of Mandingos. Konneh, first of all, is a common Mandingo name. I suppose you're referring to K-O-N-N-E-H. It's a common Mandingo last name, so I do know a lot of people who went by that name, last name.

  • Yes, Mr Witness, the question was: Do you know one who was a very senior member of ULIMO. You haven't answered that.

  • Well, very senior, what is the level of seniority, because I can, on the top of my head, remember two that I knew are - that were senior - that were senior members of ULIMO and they come from Nimba County as well, especially from the town, my home town, that's Saclepea, so I do know two.

  • One was called Kaliph Konneh and one was - well, people know his fighting name called Pepper and Salt, but his last name is Konneh.

  • Were they related to you?

  • Well, I think that question - because the Mandingo - if you say relation, were they my cousins?

  • Family relation. I don't care what.

  • No, they were not my family relations.

  • Very well. Did you have any family connection to LURD?

  • Family connection to LURD? I would have to think about that. Not that I can remember on the top of my head.

  • Take your time and let me try and help you because you didn't seem to have any difficulty remembering on 19 April 2006. Does the name Sekou Damate Konneh mean anything to you?

  • Oh, the penny's dropped?

  • It's the name Sekou Damate Konneh means something to me.

  • Question by a Dutch police officer, and I'll show you in a moment on 19 April 2006, when you were being questioned in Boston, the United States of America.

    "Q. Do you have or have you ever had ties with the LURD?

    A. No. I have never had ties with the LURD.

    Charles Taylor wanted to make it look as though I had ties

    with them because I am from the Mandingo ethnic group and

    many LURD supporters are also from that group. In fact the

    LURD recently gave an interview to the BBC in which they

    said I was critical of the LURD. What I will say is that

    the leader of the LURD Sekou Damate Konneh comes from

    Gbarnga and my mother comes from there too. Konneh was a

    good friend of my eldest brother."

    Do you remember telling somebody that?

  • Very correct. Yes, sir.

  • And just so that we know where I got it from, because I'll be asking you about one or two other matters, I wonder if I can hand out, please, some bundles.

    Right, can we look behind divider 6 please. You will see that we have here a record of an interview conducted with you at 11.30 on Wednesday, 19 April 2006. The interviewing officer was a Pieter Zeger Cornelius Stehouwer, employed as a detective by the National Crime Squad, National Police Services Agency of the Dutch police, and the hearing took place in the US Department of Homeland Security at 10 Causeway Street in Boston, the United States of America. Do you see that.

  • Yes, sir, I do.

  • Turn over the page, please. Middle of the next page - and this is double sided to save the trees. You will see in the middle of that page this question, "Do you have or have you ever had ties with the LURD?" Do you see that?

  • What line or paragraph is that?

  • Okay, yeah, I do see that.

  • It's at the bottom of the screen as you look at it. Can you see it? It's in italics.

  • "I have never had ties with the LURD. Charles Taylor wanted to make it look as though I had ties with them because I am from the Mandingo ethnic group and many LURD supporters are also from that group. In fact the LURD recently gave an interview to the BBC in which they said that I was critical of the LURD. What I will say is that the leader of the LURD, Sekou Damate Konneh, comes from Gbarnga and my mother comes from there too. Konneh was a good friend of my eldest brother."

    Is that true?

  • That is accurate.

  • Next question:

    "Q. When did you see Konneh last?

    A. October 2004 in Freetown, Sierra Leone".

  • "Q. Did you see Konneh in the period from 1999 to 2002?

    A. Before 1999 I saw him regularly because he bought and

    sold cars in Monrovia. Then he left Monrovia and I had no

    more contact with him."

    For completeness the next question:

    "Q. Did Konneh try to influence your reporting himself or

    through your brother?

    A. No. I didn't allow anyone to influence me. In 2003

    Konneh did approach me to ask if I wanted to become a

    minister in the government. I did not take up his offer.

    I had just received an award from Amnesty International for

    my work. I also told Konneh this. It went against my

    nature to become part of a government that consisted of

    rebels and people who had been responsible for human rights

    violations. I mean Bryant's interim government."

    Pause there.

  • Correct.

  • Before I close this page I want to ask you one more question on this topic. Apart from the request by Konneh for you to become involved in his government, had he ever made any other request of you?

  • That is I assume you're referring to 1999 to 2002?

  • I hadn't had contacts with him within that period. Konneh, as this report says, was a used car seller in the Paynesville Red Light area and I hadn't had contact with him. He worked as a matter of fact in the Ministry of Finance and I wouldn't do it even if he asked me. This request was in 2003. I had barely spent a year in the United States and I had travelled to Guinea and Ghana. So that was it. Konneh was a friend to my elder brother, not to me, so I haven't - I didn't have any such contact with him. And in my judgment Konneh knew that I was capable enough to tell him anything in his face and so he wouldn't tell me that - he wouldn't say that.

  • Let me ask the question more precisely, but preface it with this question. Konneh was a founding member of LURD, wasn't he?

  • I don't know for a fact whether - I don't know for a fact, but what I did hear in Monrovia --

  • What do you mean you don't know? I'm sorry to interrupt you, but look at what you said.

  • No, you said Konneh was a founder.

  • "The leader of the LURD comes from Gbarnga". That's what you've said in this answer.

  • Counsel, what I am saying --

  • Just pause, Mr Witness.

  • The question was related to founder and not leader and there is a distinction.

  • Mr Griffiths, you did say "a founding member of the LURD".

  • Was Konneh the leader of LURD?

  • Konneh was the leader of LURD. He was not - so there's a difference between him being the leader and the founding member - a founding member.

  • It's my fault entirely, Mr Bility. I accept full responsibility. In 2002, June, at the date of your last arrest, was Konneh the leader of LURD?

  • In that capacity as leader of LURD did he make any requests of you in June 2002?

  • No, sir. No request, no contact, no request through anybody at all.

  • Thank you. Specifically in June 2002 did Konneh try to recruit you to mount a military operation in Congo Town to assassinate President Taylor?

  • That sounds pretty much like the accusation leveled against me by President Charles Taylor.

  • Answer the question, Mr Witness.

  • So Konneh didn't do that?

  • Konneh did not do that.

  • Okay. Whilst we've got this bundle in front of you, do you remember me asking you this morning about the regularity of your contact with people at the US embassy for whom I suggested you were spying? Do you remember that?

  • Yes, sir, I do remember that.

  • And do you remember you telling me that your contact was infrequent?

  • Were you telling us the truth?

  • Yes, sir, I was telling the truth.

  • And of course you swore to tell the truth on the Koran, did you not?

  • And that is a matter of some moment, isn't it, for a Muslim to swear on the Koran?

  • Have a look behind divider 9, please. Do you recognise that writing? Do you recognise that writing?

  • Yes, sir, I do recognise --

  • Whose writing is it?

  • Why did it take you so long to recognise it?

  • I wanted to make sure because writings do look alike.

  • Very well. Do you remember preparing and writing this document?

  • Do you recall preparing it at the request of the gentleman sitting in the front row over there in order to set out what documentation and other supporting material you might be able to provide to the Prosecution? Do you remember that?

  • Yes, I do remember that.

  • And when you prepared that document were you endeavouring to provide them with an account which was truthful?

  • Have a look at page 4. It bears the ERN number 00013021 at the top. Read out that page to the judges, please.

  • "Most of which information ..." - "Most of this information can be verified by the US embassy in Monrovia (political consulate in session). I was always in constant contact with them".

  • Pause there. "I was always in constant contact".

  • Right.

  • Do you see a difference between infrequent contact and always in constant contact?

  • What's the difference?

  • The difference regarding the frequency and the constancy is this. The frequency is reference to the number of - I mean the number of times in this case. The constancy was regarding situations of human rights abuses. When there were human rights abuses, when there were people tortured --

  • I'm sorry to interrupt you, Mr Bility, but I'm anxious that we get on, you see? Time is precious. We lost time this morning. My question is very simple. What is the difference between what you told us at four minutes past 11 this morning, "infrequent contact", and "always in constant contact"? What's the difference?

  • The phrase "always in constant contact" in this particular context is meant to be whenever there were arrests I would remain in contact with them regarding what they know and what I know, and I do remember this is specifically referring to the arrests and torture of certain gentlemen, a William Jabbi and a guy called Donso. So there were instances. There were instances, say for example in 2000 the arrest of a Leo Jabatti at the border with Guinea in Ganta, Nimba County, and during that period I was in constant contact with the human rights officer. Then there was another time, 1998, the arrest of a Leo Donso and William Jabbi during that period. So the constancy in this case was what I would refer to as like seasonal. Whenever there was an issue going on regarding human rights abuse, regarding big situations, we would remain in contact and share opinions on that, but it didn't mean --

  • Mr Bility, sorry to interrupt you but I feel I must. Why didn't you give us that explanation this morning when I asked you the simple question: How regularly were you in contact with them? Why didn't you give me the answer you're giving us now? Why did you tell us it was infrequent and now when confronted with this you're changing your position? Help me, please: Which of these two do you want these judges to accept; that it was infrequent contact or that you were always in constant contact? Which of those two do you want us to accept?

  • Counsel, I have pointed out a difference between the phrase always in constant contact and the word, the phrase frequent contact. Now, I'm saying that one is like, the first one, frequent contact, in my understanding, is like not - you know, whether there was human rights abuses going on or not we were still, we would remain in contact, but that was not the case as far as this is concerned, and as far as your question was concerned, you asked me a specific question and I did answer the specific question. This one has to do with me explaining the difference between these two phrases which I have done. One numerical - is numerical in my opinion and one is not. So this was more of being seasonal than being numerical. At a particular time the contact were constant. At a particular - but it was not con - it was not frequent, like, you know, like regular. So there is a difference there and I'm very much confident that, you know, you, counsel, can tell the difference between constancy and frequency.

  • I can't, I'm sorry. I don't have your intelligence, Mr Bility. It's my fault. Let's go back to the page, shall we. "I was always in constant contact." Read out the rest of that page for us, please?

  • "I was always in constant contact with the following person, Hartford Jennings, former political counsellor, Deborah Harts, former human rights officer, Anthony Newton, former political counsellor and John Bowman, former acting charge d' affaire, now serving, I understood at the time I wrote this, in Germany. You may want to know why I kept notes and many people including journalists from" --

  • Is that "England"?

  • I'm trying to figure it out, what that is.

  • We all have that problem reading our own writing, Mr Bility, so I'm not being critical.

  • "From" something "regularly as" --

  • You'll have to read a little louder for it to be recorded, Mr Witness.

  • Okay. I'll start again. "I was always in constant contact with the following persons. Hartford Jennings, former political counsellor, Deborah Harts, former human rights officer, Anthony Newton, former political counsellor and John Bowman, former acting charge d'affaire now serving in Germany. You may want to know why I kept notes. Many people including journalists from" - is it England? I think it should be England, but it should be a name of a country, "regularly asked when they met me." Right. "One such persons was" instead of "were" "Johan", I think that's a misspelling there, I'm not very - a hundred per cent sure - "United Nations arms inspector in Liberia."

  • Now, just for completeness, just for the record's sake, where it begins, am I right in thinking it reads, "I was always in constant contact with them." Yes, is that right?

  • Yeah, that is what it's reading.

  • Right. "With them." And the persons who are "them" you then go on to set out, don't you?

  • Okay. Put that bundle to one side for the moment. We'll come back to it. Because remember when we went on this little diversion I was asking you about the justification for the use of force. Do you remember that?

  • So let's come back to it now and we'll move on. Having entered Nimba County in December 1989 the NPFL quickly captured large swathes of Liberia, didn't they?

  • Yeah.

  • And at a point when they were threatening to capture Monrovia in 1990, on 3 August - no, in August 1990, over 3,000 ECOMOG troops were moved from their base in Freetown to Monrovia to block the NPFL advance on Monrovia, wasn't it?

  • I'm not sure about the number, but ECOMOG moved troops to Monrovia.

  • In order to block the NPFL's advance on the capital city?

  • Not according to ECOMOG, based on what I understand.

  • But the consequence of their intervention was to block the NPFL's advance on Monrovia?

  • Not attempting to be a spokesperson for ECOWAS, because that's where they got their mandate --

  • Mr Witness, do you know the answer to that question?

  • Now, do you recall that Sierra Leone contributed some 300 troops to that force?

  • Yes, sir, I do.

  • And the then President of Sierra Leone, President Momoh, defended his action as a humanitarian intervention?

  • Is it right that as a consequence of that intervention by ECOMOG a stalemate resulted and the NPFL were unable to take the capital Monrovia?

  • Now, in September 1990, an NPFL splinter group known as the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia captured and executed Doe?

  • And his killing was video taped by a Palestinian cameraman in the Executive Mansion. Is that right?

  • No, sir, that's inaccurate.

  • No, what is inaccurate - I'm not arguing who taped it, but at the Executive Mansion, no, it happened at the - he was arrested at the Freeport Monrovia and taken to Caldwell, the base of the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia, where he died. So not at the Executive Mansion.

  • And he was executed, was he not?

  • Executed? I do - what I do know and what I did hear was that he bled to death.

  • During the course of being tortured?

  • But the execution of Doe did not end the conflict, did it; it continued?

  • And in October 1990 ECOWAS negotiated a settlement that allowed for the establishment of an interim government and Amos Sawyer was named president of the interim Government of National Unity. Is that right?

  • And he was president from November 1990 until March 1994. Is that right?

  • He was president up to 1994. I'm not sure of the month.

  • Very well. In any event, Sawyer's Monrovia based government was not recognised by Charles Taylor, was it?

  • Can you repeat that question?

  • Amos Sawyer's Monrovia based government was not recognised by Charles Taylor, was it?

  • Judges, your Honour, I would like to put that - the answer to that question in context.

  • Look, I think you should just confine yourself to answering counsel's question.

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