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

Now, moving on, Madam President, and this is my sixth proposition, the RUF were to stay in the jungle until the AFRC coup on the 25th of May 1997.

We submit that there can be no credible suggestion that Charles Taylor had a hand in the coup, nor that the former members of the Sierra Leonean army, who had in the early 1990s been fighting against the NPFL, that suddenly, on them taking power, they decided to become Charles Taylor's lackeys, because, remember, that's the theory: Taylor rose from commanding just the RUF to also commanding the AFRC. Just thinking about the logic, the psychology, of it, that this was a coup engineered by former members of the SLA, who had seen their comrades killed in combat with Liberians, and then all of a sudden now, they are going to appoint Charles Taylor their leader. It's nonsense.

Because let us just remind ourselves of some of the evidence promoted by this Prosecution in order to support this theory. Do you remember that evidence, that shortly after the AFRC coup, Charles Taylor's telephone number was sent to Johnny Paul Koroma and they were busy speaking to each other over the phone? This at a time, 25th of May 1997, remember, let's just jump across the border for a minute and consider what's happening in Liberia at the time of the coup. Taylor is in the middle of fighting an election. After fighting an almost ten-year bloody civil war, power is almost in his grasp. You can imagine the amount of electioneering he would have been involved in at that time. The difficulties of traversing a Liberia where the infrastructure had been virtually destroyed and having to campaign in such circumstances, and, yet, according to this body of evidence, at this time, when he's not even President, without access to the armouries of Liberia, he's busy on the phone to Johnny Paul Koroma giving him orders, running the AFRC. That's why we do not apologise for saying this is nonsense. And staying on the same topic, staying on the same topic, I don't refer your Honours to the particular document but I'm sure your Honours will recall it. You will recall the begging letter sent by Johnny Paul Koroma, as leader of the AFRC, in the autumn of 1997 to Charles Taylor. Two things. Why send the letter when you can telephone him? You've got his number. So why write that letter? Bearing in mind, of course, if you, Charles Taylor, the man who the Prosecution claim plays one game with his colleagues in ECOWAS, plays another game behind closed doors, such a man, you would have thought, if he's involved in this nefarious connection, that's better conducted by phone, by radio, rather than putting in down on paper in black and white. Why the letter from Johnny Paul Koroma?

And on the same topic, point number 3. Why the delegation sent to Liberia by the AFRC? Why? And Taylor didn't even bother to see them. And one can understand why not, given what steps were being taken by ECOMOG at that time to unseat that government. And let's just pause for a minute. Forget the evidence and just think about the politics of that moment. This is autumn 1997, he's just come to power. Shortly after he's put on the Committee of Five, an elevation, is he really going to jeopardise that? Can you understand now why in those circumstances, newly admitted to the Presidents' club, why would he want to jeopardise that by meeting with this delegation from Johnny Paul Koroma. Sometimes we need to step outside the confines of the courtroom and inject into it the reality of the real world in order to properly understand the testimony being placed before this tribunal.

Now, equally what is clear is that the AFRC/RUF alliance was fractious from the very beginning. Now, the Prosecution alleges that that alliance was strategic in that the AFRC needed the RUF for its connections to Taylor, as well as to help ward off ECOMOG and Kamajor attacks. That argument, in our submission, deliberately overlooks a number of important factors, which would otherwise falsify that claim.

First, when the AFRC came to power and immediately called on the RUF to join in forming a government, they had not yet faced any military resistance from either ECOMOG or the Kamajors. According to TF1-597, the Prosecution's main witness on AFRC affairs, the AFRC called the RUF within a week or so of the coup. So that's in late May, early June, 1997. Taylor is not president yet. Secondly, Taylor, as I suggest, only became president more than two months later. And we would submit that there is no credible evidence of any contact between Taylor and the AFRC at or about the time of the coup or, indeed, thereafter. Because the reality is this: The AFRC coup was an unplanned act by disgruntled members of the Sierra Leonean army, who felt that their President, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, was sidelining them in favour of the CDF. That's the reality. And it was they, the AFRC, who called on the RUF to join the government in order to foster peace, and no doubt, thereby gain a spurious legitimacy for their regime.

Again, pause to understand the politics. You're Johnny Paul Koroma, you've just overthrown a democratically elected President. You want recognition from the world because you're suffering from an arms embargo. What would be one of the preconditions for that kind of recognition? If I can establish peace in Sierra Leone. It adds a greater legitimacy to my regime. So one can understand, without the intervention of a Charles Taylor, why a Johnny Paul Koroma in that circumstance, for purely political reasons, would want to establish this alliance. He had much to gain and much to lose from a continuation of hostilities.

And the Prosecution also claim, I think at paragraph 440, that after the two groups came together, they functioned effectively as a team. Now, we address that in our final brief, but the fact is there was no effective functioning of that alliance. From the beginning, that marriage was fractious and clearly heading for divorce. Because you will recall that it was said that Bockarie at one time described the marriage, and I quote, "As the marriage of uneven and unequal partners." That's in exhibit D-9.

Indeed, as Prosecution witness TF1-568 confirmed, in cross-examination, it was natural that the AFRC and the RUF, as former enemies, and I quote, "There must arise a power struggle among us." So it would appear from the testimony of that witness that he too knew that this marriage was doomed.

Even TF1-274, who throughout his testimony in chief endeavoured to fill the many gaps in the theory of the Prosecution case, when pushed in cross-examination admitted that the relations between the RUF and the AFRC had not been perfectly cordial during the time of the junta government. Indeed, rather than functioning effectively and cordially, there is overwhelming evidence that the RUF was largely marginalised. Furthermore, there is even evidence of serious tension between the two groups. There is, for instance, overwhelming evidence across the Prosecution/Defence divide, of a plot instigated by Foday Sankoh for Gibril Massaquoi and Steve Bio to overthrow Johnny Paul Koroma and take charge of the AFRC. So there is a whole body of evidence here which points to the nature of that relationship. Why have I spent a little time dealing with that? Firstly, because Taylor is alleged to have assumed, in some mysterious way, control of the AFRC. How he managed it is yet to be explained. Point number 2, however, is this: Bearing in mind this concept of superior responsibility, how is Taylor, from Monrovia, going to coordinate the activities of such a fractious relationship? Surely that is relevant to that mode of liability. How is he going to do it, when one hand isn't listening to the other in this alliance? How is he going to do it? Now, the fact is that this coup ushered in the most violent phase of the civil war in Sierra Leone. The 18 month or so period from the AFRC coup up until the Freetown invasion was the high point of the violence in Sierra Leone, culminating, as I've mentioned, in the notorious Freetown invasion. Those 18 months are, in effect, the crux of this Prosecution. That's what this case is about. This was the period when the signature atrocity of the Sierra Leone conflict really brought the horrors of this war to the eyes of the international community. Yes, I agree, there is evidence of amputations before then, as in Operation Stop Election. But the preponderance of the evidence is that grave offence really took off and really attracted attention during that 18-month period.

And I pause to make this point: It will be noted that amputation was never a feature of the conflict in Liberia. Yet, remember, and I say it again, the Prosecution case is Liberia, Taylor and the NPFL provided the template for the activities of the RUF. So why didn't amputations become a part of the backdrop to the blood-letting in that country? Why not? And why did Charles Taylor suddenly decide, Oh, well I'm not going to let the NPFL amputate here but you guys over the border, I want you to go off, and you know, cut off a few limbs? This is nonsense.

Now, I'm not going to go into the detail of the events during that 18-month period because we submit that they are adequately covered in our final closing brief. But I would end by saying this, this particular chapter: From the period from January 1999 onwards, the focus, in terms of violence, shifts to Liberia, with the emergence in 1999 of LURD, later MODEL and clear attempts by outside powers to oust Taylor. Now, we are not going to go into the history of that period in any great detail because we submit it is a distraction at one level and we want to concentrate on what is important, that is the indictment. Because after the Freetown invasion, speaking in broad terms, what's happening in Sierra Leone of note? We have demobilisation, disarmament, proceeding unevenly but proceeding nonetheless, made possible by the commitment of that young man serving 50-odd years in custody in a prison in Rwanda, now convicted of serious crimes, even though at the time many important people in the sub-region were commending him, that young man, for what he had done, Issa Sesay, to bring about peace in Sierra Leone.

But in any event, the only issues in reality in Sierra Leone which your Honours will have to consider in that period after the Freetown invasion is the capture of the UNAMSIL peacekeepers, of the peacekeepers by the RUF, and also the road to Lome. I mention that again briefly in due course but not a great deal is happening, we would submit, in Sierra Leone after that point, save for that abiding issue about diamond mining and diamonds going over the border channeled through Charles Taylor. You will have noted, Madam President, that I've said very little to date about diamonds, and, frankly, I don't intend to say much. What I would invite your Honours to do is take a little time to examine that report prepared by the Belgian authorities about diamonds. In our submission, it will - you will benefit from careful perusal of that document because what in our submission it clearly shows, particularly when allied with the Mohammed Talibi letters, particularly allied with - do you remember the Charles letter about the Belgian man called Charles? When we put all of that together, the picture which emerges is, yes, the RUF were involved in diamond mining, yes, there was smuggling out of Sierra Leone, yes, it was going through Monrovia, but it always been thus, even before the war, because Liberia then used US dollars for currency and from way back in time, Monrovia being the route.

Think about another practical thing. If you're the RUF and you're mining diamonds up in Kono, how do you get them out of the country? You can't go through Lungi airport, a bit difficult that. So how are you going to get them out the country? And so, yes, diamonds might have been going through Monrovia but we submit the only concrete, independent evidence, which is available suggests that this was being done independently, either independent - they were doing it independently of Charles Taylor, and bear in mind, of course, we accept it couldn't have been going on without the complicity of certain people in his government. Couldn't have.

But what we ask your Honours to examine is how credible is that evidence which suggests that he was the conduit and beneficiary of that - of that behaviour.

Before I move from that topic, can I make one point? And it's this: In the indictment, the Prosecution does not make the allegation of pillage in relation to diamonds under the charge of pillage. They don't. It is limited to the civilian population. In our submission, that is a matter of some importance. So we have - so we have, then, traversed the key phases of the conflict in Sierra Leone.

Now, I promised that I would return to the Magburaka shipment. And I do. Now, Madam President, we would submit that this passage in our closing brief rewards careful analysis. It begins at paragraph 594 of our closing brief. And can I just deal with the matter in this way with some bullet points?

Point number 1: Where did the Magburaka shipment come from? Was it Burkina Faso? That's the evidence of TF1-597. Was it the Ukraine? TF1-338. Was it South Africa? The footnote from that book in ECOMOG put to Mr Taylor in cross-examination linked to the Naomi Campbell evidence. And according to that footnote, the arms came from South Africa by boat, landed in the free port in Monrovia. So which of those are we to accept? Burkina Faso, Ukraine, South Africa? Which is right? Let's ask another question. How was the shipment paid for? One witness, TF1-597, it was paid for with diamonds. Note the plural, diamonds. Because another witness, TF1-371, said that it was paid for with a 90-carat diamond and $90,000 from the Bank of Sierra Leone. Issa Sesay then said a third version, that it was paid for with $90,000 from the Bank of Sierra Leone. Again, which is right? And before we leave that topic of how it was paid for, remember, according to the Prosecution, Taylor's in possession of the diamonds in South Africa.

I apologise. Issa Sesay said the 90,000 was to pay for the transport, the shipment having already paid for - been paid for by Foday Sankoh. And I remind your Honours of the Mohammed Talibi letters.

A third area of inconsistency: Who facilitated this? According to TF1-597, there was a conversation between Johnny Paul Koroma and Taylor about arms, following which a delegation, which included Bockarie and Ibrahim Bah, went to Liberia. Two weeks later, a plane arrived at Magburaka. That's version 1.

Version 2: TF1-371. Ibrahim Bah had come from Taylor to help the junta obtain arms, and he requested the junta raise a 90-carat diamond for the arms and 90,000 for the flight. Johnny Paul Koroma handed diamonds and money to Bockarie who passed them on to Bah. Bah went to Monrovia, then came back on the shipment flight.

Version number 3: TF1-334. Fonti Kanu had gone ahead to facilitate it.

Version number 5 - 4: Issa Sesay testified that Johnny Paul Koroma gave 90,000 to Ibrahim Bah to went with Fonti Kanu and one Arnold Bangura. Koroma paid for the flight and Sankoh paid for the shipment with the money he had received from Libya.

There is a fourth area of inconsistency regarding this shipment: Who went to pick it up?

TF1-597 testified that he was present along with Fonti Kanu, TF1-371 and a Burkinabe soldier called Musa were on board the flight. TF1-338 gives us a different version. He went with Issa Sesay and Morris Kallon. TF1-371 gives us a third account, that he, Morris Kallon, and SO Williams went to Magburaka to pick it up. TF1-334 gives yet another account. He went with SO Williams and Akim Turay as well as Fonti Kanu. We then have Issa Sesay's account. He went with SO Williams, to Magburaka by helicopter, and Fonti Kanu and Ibrahim Bah were on the plane.

Again, and perhaps I've laboured this point too much and torn a passion to tatters but, again, there are inconsistencies as to when this shipment comes - came in. There are also inconsistencies about what the shipment included. It's all set out in our final brief. But the point is this: A criminal trial is not a lucky dip. It's not a question of throwing inconsistent pieces of evidence before your Honours and in effect saying, "Take your pick." That's not how it works. And of course, given the length of time which has elapsed between these events and the testimony of witnesses, one would expect such inconsistencies to occur; it is natural and human, but not to this extent. And when evidence is replete with inconsistencies and contradictions like this, there is only one thing to do with it: Throw it in the bin. That is what we submit the Court should do with this body of evidence: Get rid of it. We submit it's garbage.

Bearing in mind, of course, I'm helpfully reminded that Issa Sesay's version as to the source and the form of payment, that is, by Foday Sankoh, was confirmed by Isaac Mongor in a prior statement which he tried to disown when he arrived at this Court to give evidence, and also bear in mind that Issa Sesay's version appears on the face of it to be confirmed by those two Mohammed Talibi letters. So if your Honours are not minded to accept my invitation to get rid of this garbage, then your Honours might want to consider whose account does the independent evidence support? We submit the account it supports is that of Issa Sesay. And we submit that is the account which your Honours should accept.

Now, before I leave this Magburaka shipment, I really can't avoid responding to a comment made by my learned friend, Mr Koumjian, this morning. How can the RUF, we were asked, contact Burkina Faso? Look at the map. They share no border. Well, funnily enough, airplanes fly over borders. Funnily enough it appears here this an aircraft did fly over the border from Burkina Faso and dropped off this shipment. It's quite clear. We also recall evidence of efforts to build an airstrip in Buedu. And bear this in mind before I finally depart this topic: If, as we submit, bearing in mind the Mohammed Talibi letter, and the other evidence in support, if it is the case that Foday Sankoh arranged and paid for that shipment, what it means is this: A precedent had been set, for the events of December 1998, when quite clearly following a visit by Bockarie to Blaise Compaore, a further shipment came in. Sankoh set the precedent. He was the one who made the contacts, we submit through Ibrahim Bah, who was not sent by Charles Taylor, and that was the precedent.

And in reality, the evidence appears to confirm that only two large shipments of arms ever entered Liberia - Sierra Leone during the indictment period. Magburaka and December 1998. Now we can all understand why despite the internally and externally contradictory nature of the evidence surrounding Magburaka, the Prosecution have still stuck by their guns. They can't afford to do otherwise. Because if the general evidence is that it's only a trickle going across the border, and I don't repeat that point, they need this. It is vital to their concept of the case, which is why they have struggled uphill from day one to try and establish the unestablishable.

So there I conclude my submissions regarding the various phases of the war in Sierra Leone.

Now I want to move to another related but slightly different topic. Following Sankoh's arrest in March 1997 in Nigeria, Bockarie became the acting leader of the RUF on the ground in Sierra Leone. The Prosecution case is that from the beginning, Bockarie was Taylor's boy. Furthermore, the Prosecution alleged - alleged - that there had been no break in communication between Sankoh and Taylor but, rather, there had been a seamless and continuous relationship from the outset. This blatant attempt to rewrite history in order to force the facts to fit their theory cannot, we submit, be countenanced by this Court. No theory can be a substitute for the reality of events.

There is a document to which I will come in a moment which, in our submission, completely cuts away the ground upon which that assertion is based. But before I come to that, let me say this: Your Honours, the evidence is quite clear, Sam Bockarie was at times an evil and vicious man who carried out some very inhumane actions, such as the massacre in Kailahun. A number of witnesses called by both Prosecution and Defence have described him in the most unflattering terms. Of course, some of those witnesses had good cause to feel that way about him, and to an extent, Issa Sesay. Imagine being kept in a hole in the ground or living in a goat shed for months, after the sacrifices you had made in order to bring about the Abidjan Peace Accord. And you know who I'm talking about. Imagine that. And then to be treated in that way. How do you think such a witness would feel about his captor? The man responsible for that treatment over so many months, how would they feel? So there is a level at which we need to exercise some caution when we approach the evidence of those witnesses. They don't come to the topic of Bockarie with completely clean hands, because there is a hinterland of pain and suffering which might well be colouring their testimony in this Court. So we need to bear that in mind.

But what is the document I'm talking about, which in our submission cuts the ground away from under this assertion of seamless contact between the RUF and - between the RUF and the - and Mr Taylor? And even Mr Taylor's appointment of Bockarie as leader, following a phone call from Foday Sankoh? I'm not going to go into the detail of that. Remember all the business about you must now take orders from the man over the border? I'm not going to go into that. But let's just have a look at a document. It's exhibit D-7. And Madam Court Manager, it's behind divider 11. Do we have it? We do, I'm grateful.

It's the Tiagen Wantee letter to which my learned friend Mr Koumjian referred this morning. I'm sure it's my fault but I still have difficulty understanding the point that Mr Koumjian was seeking to make. Now, the only way the Prosecution can get around the significance and importance of this letter is to say it's a forgery. They haven't made that suggestion but it's the only way they can explain it. Now, do you recall Mr Koumjian drawing your Honours attention to a meeting of ECOWAS leaders in July 1998, attended by Mr Taylor, referred to in the presidential papers? So let's just get the sequence. Taylor attends that meeting in July. This letter arrives in August 1998 from the Liberian ambassador in Guinea.

"One Major Eddie P Kanneh, former secretary of state of the defunct military junta RUF of Sierra Leone on August 81998 called on me and provides some confidential information, that they were doing everything possible to overthrow President Charles Ghankay Taylor. He emphasised his strong desire of meeting with the Liberian leader in order to have him informed about the situation."

Then goes on to give his mobile number.

"He then requested the issuance of a Liberian travel document to facilitate his travel to Monrovia, which we considered illegal until proper contacts and proper arrangements were made with the appropriate authorities. Meanwhile Major Kanneh, who remains a strong advocate of the RUF Junta forces, reiterated his plan of travelling to Liberia along with six other members of his organisation and would cross into Sierra Leone to join their men after his meeting with the Liberian leader. He named one Mr Side Janneh and Brigadier Bockarie, both Sierra Leonean nationals, including one Mr Sherif, assistant director of Special Security Service of Liberia, as contact persons in the country."

Now, the spin that Mr Koumjian is trying to put on this is this: That that last sentence means Bockarie was already in Liberia. Does that make sense? I'm sorry, I'm sure I'm missing something here. But does that make sense? In our submission, it does not.

Now, Madam President, there are a number of questions we must ask in light of this letter. If there had been this seamless, continuous communication between Sankoh and Taylor, between Sankoh and Bockarie, why would Eddie Kanneh have to use this circuitous route to get in touch with Charles Taylor? Hold on a minute: Wasn't Taylor supposed to be in regular radio contact with his minions across the border? Wasn't Taylor supposed to be the controlling influence of the AFRC? So why is Major Kanneh, who remains a strong advocate of the RUF junta, why does he have to go to these lengths to meet Taylor? It doesn't make sense.

Further, mention is made of Varmuyan Sherif, assistant director of the Special Security Service. Now, remember, Mr Sherif is, apart from Moses Blah, the former Vice-President, the most senior member of the Liberian state apparatus to be called by the Prosecution to give evidence. Interestingly, a former general in ULIMO, guess who had been selling arms to the RUF? Oh, dear. It's ULIMO. As is supported by a number of entries in those salute reports. And it is the same Varmuyan Sherif who is being mentioned here. Let's look at it from the other side of the border for a moment now. Given what Mr Sherif said was going on, he was regularly transporting arms over the border to the RUF, again, why does Eddie Kanneh have to write this letter? Look what Varmuyan Sherif's role is. What would be the easiest way of facilitating this? Walk up the steps in the Executive Mansion, go to see Mr Taylor, and say, "Eddie Kanneh wants to come in." It's as simple as that, so why do we need this letter?

Now, remember also the Prosecution claim that Taylor had been in contact with Bockarie from the previous year, 1997. So if that be right, again, I'm sounding like a stuck record now, why do we need this letter? Bockarie could facilitate it. Again, Taylor has been in telephone contact with Johnny Paul Koroma right from the outset, we are told. If that's right, why do we need the letter? In our submission, that's the significance of this letter, and that is why the Prosecution felt the need, the keenly felt need, to try and deal with it, and in our submission, Mr Koumjian has singularly failed to provide any adequate or acceptable answer.

Now, Mr Taylor accepts that he received this letter and that he did make contact with Bockarie. He gave evidence that he met with Bockarie in the autumn of 1998 for the first time. I don't go into the details of that because Mr Koumjian dealt with it this morning as to the number, frequency and so on, of the meetings. I am sure that your Honours have all of that evidence well in mind. But interestingly this: At the time that these meetings with Bockarie were taking place, there is an interesting code cable. Yes, could we put up, please, D-170? Do we have it?

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