Week in Review: Week 2

Legal Monitoring of the Jungle Jabbah Case

Week in Review: Week 2

The Jungle Jabbah trial continued through its second week, with 13 additional witnesses testifying. All offered accounts as victims of wartime atrocities and recounted how they were personally harmed themselves or witnessed their friends and family suffer violence at the hands of Mohammed Jabbateh and his soldiers. Of them, three also worked as miners in Liberia’s gold and diamond mines under Jabbateh’s control and were forced to mine the valuable resources under slave-like conditions.

This testimony offered additional evidence supporting the prosecution’s allegations against Jabbateh. In order to obtain a conviction, the government must prove the following:

  • During the first Liberian Civil War, Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabbateh served as a high-ranking commander of a ULIMO rebel group fighting for control in Liberia. 

  • In that role, Jungle Jabbah committed numerous crimes and brutalities against non-combatant civilians as well as those he believed to be opposition forces. Many of these acts he carried out personally, while others he ordered soldiers under his command to execute at his direction. These crimes include rape, murder, torture, and ritualistic cannibalism, among other atrocities.

  • Jabbateh later provided false information on his applications for asylum and a U.S. Green Card to U.S. immigration authorities by failing to disclose his ULIMO commander role and falsely denying that he had ever committed a crime or persecuted anyone. (Evidence of this element was offered through testimony and documents last week.)

This week, the jury heard evidence of the following:

Life in Liberia

  • During the war, numerous rebel groups committed atrocities against each other.  On one occasion, NPFL soldiers entered a local village and demanded the Mandingos come forward.  They captured two Mandingo men, cut off one man’s ear and violently assaulted the other in a public display for the villagers.  ULIMO soldiers eventually liberated them from NPFL control.

  • Life was not good under NPFL control; there was no food and civilians were abused.  At times the ULIMO brought temporary relief by driving the NPFL out, but suffering continued under ULIMO control as well.

  • Eventually an ECOMOG base was established in Sinje.  Meetings were called with the area townspeople and civilians were instructed to report any complaints about the soldiers’ behavior to them.

  • When a group of villagers made an official complaint to ECOMOG about ULIMO-K soldiers arbitrarily shooting a man in their town and severely assaulting three others, ECOMOG told them their complaint was not credible unless they brought the bodies to ECOMOG to view personally. The villagers had to carry the bodies, including the corpse, in hammocks balanced on their shoulders for the 3-hour walk from their village to ECOMOG’s base.  The injured were sent for treatment and the corpse was buried, but ECOMOG did nothing about the soldiers and the crimes went unpunished.

Jabbateh’s Commander Role

  • Numerous witnesses identified, by name and rank, soldiers under Jabbateh’s command who followed Jabbateh’s orders and answered to him. They testified that it was obvious to all that Jabbateh was the “big man” among the rebels and referred to him as the “boss.”

  • When Jabbateh and his soldiers invaded a farm and captured the farm workers, Jabbateh identified himself to the group by saying, “I am Jungle Jabbah, king of the jungle.”

  • Witnesses testified that Jabbateh’s soldiers saluted him and addressed him as “Sir.”

  • Jabbateh participated in a joint meeting with ECOMOG officials where townspeople were advised to report complaints about soldiers’ actions to ECOMOG.  Jabbateh spoke at the meeting on behalf of ULIMO-K and informed the people that his group was in control of the whole area now.

Crimes Jabbateh Committed

  • After the ULIMO split into two factions in 1994, Jabbateh and his soldiers rounded up 15 members of the Krahn tribe supporting opposition forces, tied them in the “duck fa tabae” manner, and turned them over to be executed by Jabbateh’s forces.

  • Soldiers under Jabbateh’s command captured two men and burned them alive in a well.  The soldiers lowered the men into the well, covered the opening with dried bamboo doused in gasoline, and lit it on fire.

  • While being forced to deliver supplies to Jabbateh’s barracks, a witness observed Jabbateh and his soldiers eating meat that was reported to be from human remains.

  • In another town, soldiers captured villagers and divided the sick from the healthy.  The sick were given 50 lashes to make them “hurry up” and the healthy were marked by cutting their hands with a sharp knife until blood spurted from an open vein. The entire group was marched 3-4 hours to a creek where Jabbateh had reportedly had a car accident and were put to work removing debris from the water. This included unexploded bombs, machinery, and a dead body.  A sign demarking the bridge as “Jungle Jabbah Bridge” was later raised so no one would forget the “evil” that Jungle Jabbah had brought to the area.

  • In villages men were arrested, tied in the “duck fa tabae” manner, and forced to work as soldiers under Jabbateh’s command. When one man complained that he was in pain during a forced march, Jabbateh ordered his soldiers, including armed child soldiers, to bring the man forward and execute him.  The man begged for his life, so Jabbateh ordered his soldiers to cut off the man’s ear instead.

  • A large group of farm workers were captured when Jabbateh and his soldiers invaded a commercial farm.  The soldiers were rapidly firing their guns until Jabbateh called for a “cease fire” and everyone immediately stopped. The women were stripped to their underwear and men who protested were beaten and whipped on Jabbateh’s orders. The men, including young boys, were tied in the “duck fa tabae” manner. They were forced to march for a long distance with no water and then tied up for the night. The women were “taken” as the soldiers’ wives and the children were conscripted as child soldiers. Throughout their captivity, women were grabbed at random and taken to be raped, sometimes by groups of soldiers at once. The soldiers later laughed about their attacks.

  • Jabbateh’s soldiers stole a bag of rice from one boy, beat him, and cut him with their bayonets.  When the boy’s father went to talk to Jabbateh about what his soldiers had done, Jabbateh ordered his soldiers to strip the man naked, tie him in the “duck fa tabae” manner, and leave him in the street.  The man died from internal injuries and his body was left lying naked in the street.

  • When the man’s family learned what had happened, one of his daughters went to talk to Jabbateh about how her father had been treated. Jabbateh ordered four of his soldiers to take the girl away, so they took her to an unfinished building and raped her.  She suffered numerous injuries during the assault when she tried to defend herself, including a knife wound below her eye, shrapnel wounds, and bite marks over her body.

  • Jabbateh ordered his soldiers to commandeer cars from the villagers at checkpoints to use for the rebel’s transport.

  • In Dassalamu, a group of soldiers ran into the town one day armed with guns and machetes.  One soldier shot a man sitting on a bench under a fruit tree with his friends. The man stumbled into the street, collapsed and died.  Although the incident was reported to ECOMOG, there were no consequences for the soldiers.  The soldier who shot the man was later put in command of the village when ULIMO-K took control of the area.

  • Jabbateh’s soldiers returned to Dassalamu several months later and killed the village chief and three other men.  Before killing him, they went to the chief’s house and showed him his brother’s heart, which had been cut out from his body.  They warned him that the same would happen to him, before leading him outside and killing him.  The soldiers then cut out the chief’s heart, brought it to his wife, and ordered her to cook it for them.  While she was in the kitchen, they stripped her and attempted to rape her before she was able to escape into the bush. The chief’s body was burned.

  • Jabbateh and his soldiers frequently raided the weekly market in Danielstown. They looted the vendors and demanded the sellers put their goods into the soldiers’ cars, threatening them with guns.  

  • Jabbateh took over the mining industry in Lofa Bridge and in Wayju, confiscating the mines from the rightful owners.  Miners were forced to work under slave-like conditions, with no pay and no food.  He ended the practice of allowing the miners to keep a small portion of the mined resources as compensation for their work, ordered armed child soldiers to guard them, and refused to let them stop working or leave the area. If miners were caught trying to escape, they were captured and beaten.

  • On one occasion, Jabbateh demanded the wife of one of his miners come and have sex with him. She was too scared to move, so Jabbateh ordered his soldiers to take her and bring her to him. He kept her captive overnight and raped her.

  • When the ULIMO-K invaded Tubmanburg, the villagers fled to the bush.  Jabbateh ordered his soldiers to search the bush and round them up.  They were forced to march to Bopolu, where the civilians were presented to Jabbateh as enemy ULIMO-J soldiers accused of “reconnaissance.” They were beaten and jailed on Jabbateh’s orders.  Later the men were forced to dig pits in a diamond mine under the guard of child soldiers.

  • At a Jabbateh-controlled diamond mine in Kungbor, one miner was caught scratching his eye and accused of trying to hide diamonds in his mouth.  Soldiers searched him but found nothing.  Soldiers then forced him to drink medicine that caused diarrhea in case he had swallowed the diamonds.  Again nothing was found, so he was beaten so severely that he was sick for a week.

  • Jabbateh sent some of his child soldiers to bring a miner’s fiancé to him in Henrys Town.  Her fiancé went with her and told Jabbateh that she was his woman and was pregnant.  Jabbateh beat the man on the head with his pistol and sent him away.  He raped the woman, who later miscarried from the assault.  She could not find medicine and died from complications.

  • When the town of Bongmine was invaded, villagers tried to flee but were captured by ULIMO-K soldiers and taken to their base in Waybama. One man was accused of being a ULIMO-J spy and Jabbateh ordered him killed.  Under Jabbateh’s watch, soldiers tied him to a tree and cut his throat.

  • In Waybama, Jabbateh “gave” the captured women to his soldiers to use as sex slaves. One woman who was 8-months pregnant was held captive and repeatedly raped over three days.  The soldier continued to rape her even after she miscarried on the second day.  Eventually she was able to escape by hiding in the water of a nearby river.

The defense continued pressing many of the same themes previously introduced on cross-examination. Specifically, defense counsel suggested the witnesses’ testimony from this week is unreliable because of the following:

  • The victims have been influenced by outside sources.  For example, defense counsel suggested that the government influenced witnesses’ identification evidence by showing them suggestive photographs to encourage them to identify Jabbateh as the perpetrator.

  • The victims have failed to make similar allegations or report crimes to Liberian authorities at any point in the 23 years since the war, implying that either their memories are not accurate after so much time has passed or that they have ulterior motives for suddenly making accusations now.

  • The witnesses are motivated by tribal alliances and are attacking the defendant because he is a member of an enemy ethnic group.  A number of the victims are members of tribes that allied with the ULIMO-J or supported the NPFL, the opposing rebel groups fighting against Jabbateh’s Mandingo tribe and the ULIMO-K.

  • Some witnesses voluntarily remained in areas they now claim were unsafe and others voluntarily chose to continue living and working in mining communities even though they were free to leave, suggesting their actions during the war are not consistent with current claims that they were abused or held captive at the time.

 

Trial continues next week.  The government is expected to rest its case on Monday, with the defense case beginning immediately thereafter.

Reports

Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabbateh was sentenced today to 30 years’ imprisonment—the statutory maximum—for providing false information to U.S.

On October 18, 2017, Liberian-national Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabbateh was convicted of four counts of fraud in immigration docume

Mohammed "Jungle Jabbah" Jabbateh Found Guilty on All Counts

The Jungle Jabbah trial wrapped up on Tuesday.  The jury heard summations and began their deliberations.

Government’s Summation

​​​​​​​The third week of the Jungle Jabbah trial began Monday morning with the government's last witness.

The Jungle Jabbah trial continued through its second week, with 13 additional witnesses testifying.

The second week of the trial concluded Thursday afternoon with three more government witnesses.

Witness 15 (continued)

The government’s fifteenth witness continued his direct testimony from yesterday. 

The second week of the “Jungle Jabbah” trial began Tuesday morning with the continuation of the cross-examination of witness nine, Pepper and Salt's brother.

 

Witness 9

The first week of the Jungle Jabbah trial wrapped on Thursday, with both sides offering insights throughout the week as to the allegations and defenses that will ultimately be at issue. 

The first week of the "Jungle Jabbah" trial concluded with testimony by four more of the government's witnesses on Thursday.

 

Witness 5

Trial has officially begun in the federal case against longtime Pennsylvania resident Mohammed Jabbateh in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).