Trial Day 8: The Government Rests its Case
The third week of the Jungle Jabbah trial began Monday morning with the government's last witness.
The witness, a photojournalist from Liberia, began his testimony by providing the court with a brief background of his educational and work experience. He was a photo editor for a newspaper in Liberia while the interim government was in power. He testified that he had several assignments at the executive mansion that required him to be there Monday to Friday from the end of 1990 until Charles Taylor became president. Providing a general overview of the process to gain entry to the executive mansion as a reporter, the witness stated that his newspaper had to submit a letter to the Press Secretary introducing him as a correspondent. The letter was then photocopied and sent to the Special Security Service (SSS) director who would vet the correspondents through a screening procedure. The witness stated that the SSS officers "had to know you," because "not everyone could go" to the mansion; there were only two correspondents for his entire newspaper. The prosecutor asked the witness whether he knew the government's first witness, another photojournalist who testified that he went to the executive mansion on assignment during Liberia's first civil war; the witness testified that he knew him personally and had worked with him.
The witness described the security procedures at the executive mansion and stated that the SSS would thoroughly check his camera and other belongings before he could enter. Discussing the training and appearance of SSS officers, the witness indicated that SSS officers were trained in the U.S. and Israel and had navy uniforms, shaved heads, and carried their accessories, such as a walkie-talkie, on their belt. He testified that the plainclothes SSS officers wore coat suits, but all of the SSS officers were well dressed because they were the presidential guards. The witness identified previously admitted photographs of SSS officers and stated that the photos accurately depicted their dress code during the time he was present at the executive mansion. He also testified that he met the former SSS director, Government Witness 5, and traveled with him on several occasions.
When asked whether he was familiar with Jabbateh, the witness stated that he was familiar with him and had seen him three times. The first time he saw Jabbateh was at the executive mansion in 1995 when there was a meeting with the rebel faction leaders. When asked if he ever saw Jabbateh at the executive mansion before 1995, the witness stated that he had not. Referring to the meeting of the faction leaders, the witness testified that "every faction or rebel leader had their own rebels as a bodyguard" and that those individuals were not SSS officers. He testified that he heard the defendant's "boys" calling him Jungle Jabbah and was familiar with him from his coverage during the war and the defendant's dreadlocks.
The next two times the witness saw Jabbateh was in downtown Monrovia with "his men." The witness stated that Jabbateh's men respected him because he was their commander and called him Jungle Jabbah. The witness also identified Jabbateh in a photograph.
The witness testified that ULIMO fighters had white badges on their uniforms, similar to the type of badge Peacekeepers had so that people would think they were Peacekeepers. The witness then identified a photograph shown to him by the prosecutor that depicted a ULIMO fighter with a white badge on which included the words, "ULIMO Zebra b/n Liberia." He testified that he observed civilians during the war in his capacity as a photojournalist and stated that it was not easy to move around as a civilian during that time because every city and town had armed men in the street. When asked whether there was law enforcement during the civil war, the witness stated that law enforcement agencies had broken down. People couldn't report any of the atrocities they endured or witnessed because "everywhere you could seek justice was closed down."
There was no respect for human dignity, the witness said. Bodies were buried in mass graves, eaten by dogs, or burned. "When they shot you in the street you decayed there," he said. When asked specifically about rape victims, the witness testified that there was no one to complain to because there was no law and order. "A lot of people were raped and suffered in the war," but it was very difficult for them to come out and say that. All they could do was "hope that one day there'd be justice and they could come tell their story."
The witness was asked whether anyone at all had been prosecuted for any war crime activity and he stated that to his recollection no one had been prosecuted for crimes during the war. Regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), he said that he knew people went there to give testimony, but no one had been prosecuted as a result.
The witness also testified that at one point the NPFL and ULIMO-K aligned against ULIMO-J and decided to arrest Roosevelt Johnson. He stated that Grand Cape Mount County and Bomi County are areas in Liberia that are particularly well known for their minerals and that after August of 1992 ULIMO-K controlled both of those areas.
On cross-examination, the witness confirmed that on the day he saw Jabbateh at the executive mansion, Jabbateh was providing services for Alhaji Kromah. He testified that he did not think Jabbateh would have had to get security clearance from SSS in the same way he had because Jabbateh would have been allowed to enter as part of a faction leader’s private security force. He further stated that all he knew was that Jabbateh was a commander of a warring faction and that the faction leaders brought other rebels from their group to the executive mansion that they believed would protect them. Defense counsel asked the witness to review a photograph of a National article that had been previously admitted and asked whether he was familiar with the press Jabbateh received for his role in the disarmament process but the witness stated that he wasn't familiar with any coverage Jabbateh had received for that matter. The witness confirmed that the Red Cross and ECOMOG were in Liberia during the first civil war and that the U.S. military had an attaché in Monrovia, but that the attaché was only there to secure the U.S. embassy and U.S. citizens in Liberia. The witness also confirmed for defense counsel that the TRC made recommendations for prosecutions, but couldn't recall whether Jabbateh had been on that list. When asked if he ever saw Jabbateh commit a violent act or crime, the witnessed testified that the first time he saw Jabbateh, he was with Alhaji Kromah, and the second he was with his men. The witness stated, "I know him to be in an armed group and rebel faction but didn't see him commit crimes, I just saw him with his rebel faction in uniform."
On re-direct, the prosecutor asked the witness to read the date on the National article that defense counsel brought up. The date was January 13, 1997.
The government then read the jury several stipulations regarding the total landmass of specific areas in Liberia and locations in the U.S. of comparable size.
Following the stipulations, the government rested its case.
The defense case began Monday with defense counsel calling ten witnesses who were sworn in together as a group. The parties agreed to a statement, which defense counsel read to the court while the ten witnesses stood. The stipulation, or agreed upon statement, declared that the witnesses, if called, would testify as follows: they know his client, Mohammed Jabbateh, and know other people that know him, and know his reputation as a "peaceful, nonviolent, law-abiding person."
The defense is expected to rest their case tomorrow morning. Closing arguments will begin thereafter.