Trial Day 5: Former Child Soldiers Continue to Testify

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Trial Day 5: Former Child Soldiers Continue to Testify

Witness 10: “X,” Continued

The prosecution of Thomas Woewiyu continued on Monday morning with the completion of the testimony of Witness X.

On direct examination, X confirmed that before he left the battlefield at Duwalla and escaped, Defense Minister Woewiyu split into two groups the force with which X was training, and sent them in different directions.  X was with the group that followed the railroad tracks.  X explained that Duwalla is located on the Cape Mount Highway, “not too far” from Monrovia; he told the jury that on a day with no traffic, Duwalla is only a ten-minute drive from Monrovia.

The witness was shown a map on which he recognized the county of Montserrado and neighborhoods in Monrovia.  X identified Duwalla on the map and pointed it out to the jury, via its proximity to Caldwell Junction.

On cross-examination, the witness stated that he arrived in Philadelphia at the end of May of this year, after the government secured his visa to come to America.  He confirmed that the government is paying his expenses here, including his hotel bill, his spending expenses, and his witness fee.  He testified that he first met with prosecution counsel and investigators in early April 2018 in Monrovia.  X stated that he does not know the exact date on which he will return to Liberia, but intends to return when his testimony is complete.

X agreed when asked by counsel if, in 1990 while he was living with his sister, Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers appeared with guns, and he was told to go inside.  He agreed that when the NPFL later arrived, there was fighting between the groups.  He agreed when asked by counsel that he then went to Bong Mines to hide, and then returned home.

X described what happened when NPFL soldiers moved in next door to him, confirming that he lived in close proximity to the soldiers for two years, sometimes receiving food from the soldiers.  He agreed that it was a peaceful coexistence.

The witness testified that although he had heard the name Isaac Musa, he did not know Musa’s position.  The witness also stated that he did not know the month in 1992 that he was taken to Bong Mines by the NPFL.

X attested that he engaged in the NPFL attack on ECOMOG forces at Duwalla, and that it was due to the heavy force of fighting that he retreated.

The witness stated that he has lived in Liberia since birth and now lives in Nimba, and that while living in Nimba he heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on the radio.  He did not know who founded the TRC or set it up.  He confirmed that the purpose of the TRC was to find out what happened in the war, and said that while the TRC was on the radio for a long time, he did not pay attention to how long.  X did not know whom the TRC interviewed, or how many people the TRC interviewed.  He testified that he never gave an interview, and never tried to give a statement, to the TRC.

The witness never heard that the TRC recommended over 100 people for prosecution.  When asked if he was aware that Woewiyu was not one of those recommended, he stated that he did not know any of the people listed for prosecution.

On a brief re-direct examination, X testified that he could not remember if he ever knew Woewiyu was on a TRC list of persons subject to or recommended for public sanctions based on the commission of human rights violations.

X was asked if he knew he was getting the average pay for a witness, “no more and no less,” but the question was withdrawn before he answered.

X was asked if he knew that Witness GG or Witness FF, who gave testimony in this trial last week, came to Philadelphia to testify.  He stated that he knew they were here to testify, and that they have already returned to Liberia.

X testified that he did not remember on which the date he was captured and taken to Bong Mines, nor the name of the operation for which his group was divided to attack Duwalla.  He recalled that the purpose of that operation was to fight ECOMOG.

Witness 11: “Y”

Witness Y testified that he was born in 1980 in Ganta in Nimba County, and identified himself as a member of the Mano tribe.  He told the jury that, to his knowledge, there were many Mano and Gio people in the NPFL, and that the two tribes were concentrated in Nimba County.

The witness stated that he currently supports two younger siblings, and told the jury that he did not complete school. He studied for two or three years before he left school at the age of six or seven because of farming. He explained that he was raised by his foster sister in Zualay, and said that she did not want to pay Y’s school fees because he did not pay attention in school and she thought that he just wanted to farm.  After he left school, he farmed rice for two years.

Y told the jury that after the war, he returned to school, and currently studies at the University of Liberia.  He is employed full time in security for a branch of the government of Liberia.

Y testified that he was nine years old when the war came to Zualay in 1989 or 1990.  He explained that he used to play football on the football field with his friends, who were 7-10 years old.  One evening, while playing on the field, the boys were surprised to see men in military and khaki trousers enter the town.  Y stated that some of the men wore a knife on their side; some carried a gun.

“They ran on the field to us,” Y said.  He later found out that the men were soldiers for the NPFL.  The boys tried to run away, but a man told them to be still.  Y identified the speaker as Commander Zobon Johnson.  Y told the jury that there were 12 boys playing football, but he did not know the number of NPFL soldiers who appeared.

Y recalled that the boys were all frightened because Johnson told them that if they did run, they would be shot.  Y testified that the NPFL soldiers wanted the boys’ help carrying loads to another town, and that Johnson told them that they would be compensated, but did not say what the boys would be given. According to Y, the boys were not willing to carry the loads, but were too frightened to refuse, so they carried the loads to a nearby village. Y described his heavy load as a kit bag full of bullet magazines.  He testified that when the boys reached the village, the soldiers told them to stop, and that they could return to Zualay.  On the boys’ return, Y said, they were too frightened to go on to the football field to play again, so in the future they played in the town.

The witness testified that Johnson returned to Zualay a second time.  At that time, Y said, the people in the town were carrying on with their normal activities.  According to Y, Johnson again said he would give the boys compensation if they would carry a load.  “That used to be how he got boys to come,” Y said.  He told the jury that this time the boys carried loads to a different village, located in Nimba County; this time, the loads had clothes in them. Y testified that in the destination village, Johnson said the same thing, that the boys would be given compensation; this time, Johnson told them “everything would be okay when the boss comes.”  Y did not know who Johnson meant by “the boss.”

On a map, the witness identified Ganta, Zualay, and the village to which he carried magazines; he then pointed to where he thought he carried clothes, but corrected himself.

The witness testified that Zobon Johnson returned to Zualay a third time.  The third time “was very difficult for us,” Y said.  He described standing in front of his house, while friends of his were playing in the center of town.  Johnson and other NPFL soldiers ran into the town at a high speed, Y said, and Y ran inside of his house to try to hide under the bed, “but they got me out.”  He testified that his foster sister was crying and begging the soldiers not to carry Y away, “but they took me from her.”

The witness confirmed that he was 10 or 11 years old the third time Johnson came to Zualay, and that he was familiar with Johnson based on the two times he had seen Johnson previously. Y stated that from the time he was taken away from home, he lived with Johnson “where Johnson was staying.”

Y testified that on occasion, Johnson would bring the boys living with him outside, and would say “his overall boss” would come to address them. Y explained that he and the other boys living with Johnson were part of the Small Boys Unit (“SBU”), of which Johnson was the commander.

The witness described his arrival at Johnson’s camp from Zualay, telling the jury that the NPFL had “arrested most of us in town,” and led their captives away from Zualay to Gbarnga through the bush.  Some captives had to walk because the available truck was too packed; Y believed there were over 12 boys captured in Zualay, and that he was the oldest.  At that time, he said, he was between 10 and 11 years old.

Their destination in Gbarnga, Y testified, was “a place like a school.”  He described being kept inside in rooms, and being taken out every morning and addressed by Johnson.  Johnson told the boys, “Your boss is coming to speak to us.”  Y testified that when he arrived at the “school” in Gbarnga, there were others already there. 

Y described his training to the jury, including how the NPFL showed the boys how to use guns Y had never previously seen.  He testified that he ever had any desire to be at the training camp, telling the Court that he was afraid and just a boy at the time.  He explained that if he said “no” to being trained, he would be penalized, i.e. beaten or killed.  He testified to witnessing the kind of penalization he feared: in his presence, NPFL fighters told a young girl to obey the orders given to her, but when she did not, they took her away and Y never say her again.  He recalled that the girl was “very little,” maybe seven or eight years old, and that she had spent most of her time in their group crying.

Eventually, Y said, Johnson told the trainees that “the boss” he had told them about would be coming that day, and they should come out to see him.  “The boss” identified himself as Tom Woewiyu; the witness remembered he was dressed in camouflage pants and a white shirt and jacket.  Y stated there was a pistol on his belt.

“You are here for a purpose,” Y remembered Woewiyu saying.  “Don’t worry, you’ll be put somewhere to do good.”  According to Y, the purpose was to fight against Samuel Doe’s soldiers.  Y knew of Doe as the President of Liberia at the time.  The witness recognized a photograph that he was shown as an accurate depiction of Woewiyu at the time.  He stated that Woewiyu left after making this speech, but that Woewiyu said he would come back.

Y testified that when Woewiyu returned, he divided the crowd of trainees into two groups, one to be led by Woewiyu and one to be led by Johnson. When Woewiyu arrived at the training camp, he gave out arms to some of the boys who did not have them. Y explained that he did not have a gun, but he was between two of his friends – one in front of him and one behind him – who carried guns. Those boys in the middle of a formation carried other materials, he said.

Y specifically remembered that Johnson said a “plain thing:” “Anyone you see in front, those with guns, kill them; they are enemies to us.” Y testified that he himself carried the materials for loading a gun, so that if a boy in front of him reached back, Y could give him what he needed. 

They were going to Monrovia, Y stated, but he told the jury that he himself did not reach Monrovia.  Johnson said the boys could rest at a town by the road, as they were all getting tired – the witness specifically recalled the heavy weight of his own load – and they could not fall by the wayside on their march.  Y stated that they were on the road walking for a day before Johnson told them they could rest, but that Johnson added that “nobody should leave the group before he said to go.”

The witness testified that the resting group heard firing sounds from small arms like AK-47s, and then heard a rocket launching from a distance. He stated he heard a launching sound “on a building” and then he saw those with guns begin to take cover.  He confirmed that he saw the hose with the rocket, and that arms kept on firing, so he ran into the bush with his friend from Zualay.

Y remembered that when they decided to run, they did not take their loads. He described how the child soldiers with guns took cover, so those with loads were able to run. Y told the jury that once in the bush, he and his friend did not know where they were going, but that they met two scared adults; once the boys let the adults know not to be afraid of them, they showed the boys where to go. Y described the adults as a man and his wife, who had three children. “He accepted us as his own children,” Y said, and the family began helping Y and his friend.

Y testified that eventually the boys and the family reached a point where the family had to go in a different direction.  He remembered the man saying, “Gentlemen, find your way out.”  Y said that his Zualay friend was tired, and decided to stay in the town where they were parting from the family, but Y decided to join another group that was continuing onward.  He testified that “luckily” he eventually found himself across the border in Guinea.

Y confirmed that the materials he carried in the line of child soldiers were the magazines of bullets for the guns around him.

On cross-examination, Y stated that he was nine years old when he first met Johnson, when he was first asked to carry loads for him.  He stated that the second time, he was in the same age group; he was nine years old, but did not know the day or month.  He explained that he told the jury he was “10 or 11” when captured, because he was between birthdays, and could not therefore consider himself either age.

Y testified that he had a knife but was not issued a gun.

Y testified that he did not know the name of the town the boys rested at on the highway, or where he parted with the family and his friend, because he was not from that area and so was not familiar with those places.

The witness confirmed that he first met the prosecution counsel in 2018, and had never testified before about these events.  He stated that he knew of the TRC, but the he never gave an interview to the TRC.

Witness 12: “CC”

Witness CC testified that he was born in 1975 in Margibi County at the Firestone Hospital in Division 10.  He explained the “Division” system to the jury, stating that Divisions were compounds numbered 1-45, for the use of the workers on the Firestone rubber plantation. He told the jury that he himself grew up in Division 45, also in Margibi County. CC stated that his father was a mechanic with the company and his mother took care of the home. CC went to elementary school but did not get far before the war came, as he started in 1984 and the war came in 1990 when he was 15 or 16.

CC told the jury that the war came to Liberia in 1989, and it came to him personally on the Firestone plantation in 1990, when rebels entered with heavy fire. He had heard rumors that the war would come, he said, but there were lots of rumors, so he went out to play after school one day while his parents were at home.  He testified that suddenly rebels opened fire and everyone ran; when he ran home, he did not see his parents, who had already fled.

CC did not know where his parents were, so he ran to his uncle’s house across the road.  He stated that his uncle asked CC where his parents were, but CC answered that he did not know. CC said that he stayed with his uncle for almost a month, and it was very hard to get food, because the ones who used to provide food were the Firestone management.

The witness testified that he saw many fighters, because they had already captured the area. He described the rebels’ process of “recruiting” young men: first they would catch you, then put you in a vehicle, then take you to a base; “that’s how you were recruited.”  He confirmed that he was 15 or 16 years old at the time.  CC testified that the rebels who were “recruiting” mainly young men were NPFL fighters, and that he himself was recruited in that fashion.  He explained that he joined because he was forced to, and said that he was hungry when he was recruited, as there was little food to eat, but that he did not join for food.

When he was recruited, CC said, he was put on a truck and taken to Buchanan, the capital city of Grand Bassa County, close to the ocean; he told the jury that the city has a port. He recalled that their destination in Buchanan was the fairgrounds, which were used as the staging ground for a training procedure referred to as “Zero Week.”  CC recalled that there were men of many different ages in the truck with him from the Firestone plantation, about a platoon’s worth of 62 men, both older and younger than him.  At the fairgrounds, he testified, the 62 of them joined a group of many people already there.

“Zero Week is when you first get to base,” CC said.  He described the process of shaving the trainees’ heads before they were put in water and mud and taught to drop to the ground to roll and crawl.  “Every day they do that to you.”  The witness testified that his Zero Week training included crawling in mud on his hands, and being taught to “bear things” like what would happen if you were captured on the front lines; the object of “bearing things,” he said, was so the trainees learned how not to “expose your group.”  Learning to “bear things” also involved eating only once a day, CC said.

The witness testified that the name “Zero Week” was because the trainees had “not done anything yet.”  He testified that not everyone survived the training, and estimated that two people died because of it.  He also confirmed that people were disciplined during Zero Week, if they saw a ranking officer and did not obey an order.  He described punishments as trainees being “ordered on your butt with a rebel belt” or being “put on your knuckles.”  According to CC, those trainees who survived Zero Week began active training.

CC confirmed that at the beginning of Zero Week, trainees’ heads were shaved, and stated that trainees could not bathe during Zero Week. Only after the end of the week were they allowed to bathe, when they were taken to the waterside to bathe and then given a shirt, jeans, and sandals.

CC described his “active training,” telling the jury that it involved guerilla tactics, weapons, and moving on or attacking the enemy.  He explained that the weapons training involved how to fire and disassemble a weapon; his was an AK-47.  He also learned how to take cover if fired upon by the enemy. This training, CC said, lasted for two weeks. He described a metal bell that would be beaten when it was time to everyone to come from their bunk, when it was time to rain, or when there was an emergency.

According to CC, the first thing the trainees learned was singing. He remembered the words to many, many songs, and sang one for the jury, which included the words “if they bring trouble, we bring it to you.” CC confirmed that these were songs about being Charles Taylor’s soldiers.  He confirmed that he trained to be in the SBU, and later in the Anti-Terrorism Unit (“ATU”) after Taylor became president.

CC recalled that besides learning how to use an AK-47, trainees also learned how to use an RPG-7, including how to mount a rocket and how to launch it from their shoulders.

CC testified that in training, trainees were told that the AFL was the enemy.

At the end of the training, he said, he was sent to the military barracks at Camp Schieffelin, near Roberts International Airport in Monrovia. CC confirmed that Camp Schieffelin was an AFL base, and he was sent there to do battle. After a woman came to tell them about it, he said, he was taken in a truck because the battle was intensifying on the highway and the NPFL had gone to the training base for reinforcements.  CC was still around 15 or 16 years old, he said, and at Camp Schieffelin there were mixed troops, both older and younger than him.

The witness described being taken by the truck to the head of a hill, and walking down the hill to the battle for Camp Schieffelin.  He testified that he was in the battle for almost a week before the NPFL captured the barracks, and that his next assignment was to advance all the way to Monrovia; the NPFL was met with heavy force, and was commanded to fight to the death.

CC said that after this fighting, when ECOMOG came to the country, he went to Gbarnga and was assigned to the SBU.  He recalled that Zobon Johnson was the commander of the SBU.

CC described his assignment in Gbarnga as to the “executive grounds” or “Executive Mansion” where Charles Taylor was.  He told the jury about the system of three checkpoints that led to Taylor: the SBU commanded the first checkpoint; SS Cobra commanded the second; and the last checkpoint, closest to the hill on which the Executive Mansion sat, was commanded by Taskforce.  He explained that the SBU checkpoint lay on a branch of a road toward Far East where a telecommunications tower was, and to the left was the road to the Executive Mansion.  He explained that “Far East” was the name of a residential community, and that the checkpoint lay on the road used to access it from the road leading to the Executive Mansion.

CC testified to the procedure at the SBU checkpoint where he served, telling the jury that if somebody wanted to go to the Executive Mansion, there was a “strong mandate” that every vehicle had to be stopped and checked, even if the person visiting was the Chief of Staff or Defense Minister.  The witness stated that all cars were checked for guns, and weapons were left at the checkpoint.  He said that the SBU checkpoint would also call ahead to the next checkpoint to alert them to the coming vehicle, before allowing it to drive onward; the SBU checkpoint would also confirm that the vehicle had permission to approach the Executive Mansion.

Specifically, CC remembered Chief of Staff Isaac Musa, Defense Minister Woewiyu, and Commander General Christopher Vambo, a.k.a. “Mosquito,” approaching Taylor through the SBU checkpoint. He testified that many other commanders came through too.

CC testified that this same procedure was used when Woewiyu came through.  “I’m a soldier,” he said, “I fall under the Defense Minister.  He knows the order” of the procedure.  The witness confirmed that the procedure followed for Woewiyu was to stop the car, check it for weapons, and call to the next checkpoint before Woewiyu was allowed to proceed.  He recalled seeing Woewiyu pass through the checkpoint two or three times, arriving in a jeep with a pickup of bodyguards.

CC confirmed that the Defense Minister’s vehicle was searched, because soldiers fall under the Defense Ministry and the Defense Ministry is not part of the President.  He described soldiers greeting Woewiyu with a salute.

CC recalled that when Woewiyu’s car was searched, everyone came out, and said that the bodyguards did not proceed with Woewiyu.  CC said the bodyguards carried weapons, and confirmed that he personally saw Woewiyu several times because “he came to speak to his friend Charles Taylor.”  The witness stated that the same checkpoint procedure was followed every time.  He remembered Woewiyu wore a military uniform or mufti, and that Woewiyu handed his bodyguard his .45 to hold at the checkpoint.  “The bodyguards would move with you as commander,” CC said, and stated that Woewiyu had a special bodyguard who served as his aide de camp.

The witness testified that within the SBU were women known as the “Wasps,” who had joined the army; they carried weapons because they were soldiers.  He stated that some were young girls.

The witness testified that he became aware of Operation Octopus in 1992, and said that it began on October 14 of that year.  Prior to the operation, he said, there was an “all generals forum” where the Chiefs of Staff and generals brought men.  ECOMOG was deployed into barrier counties at that time, CC said, and Taylor decided to disarm them.  The witness confirmed that he personally knew this because he was assigned with Taylor.

CC described receiving from Zobon Johnson the order to fight ECOMOG in Octopus, and stated that although he did not know the name of Johnson’s commander, he knew that Johnson fell under the Executive Mansion and under the Defense Ministry.  CC confirmed that Woewiyu was at the top of the Defense Ministry.  Before Octopus started, CC said, Taylor gave the order to the Defense Ministry to disarm ECOMOG in different counties.

They were then put into trucks and sent to Monrovia, CC testified.  All units were ordered to bring men and go to the Defense Ministry, so they brought trucks and were taken to the Fendell campus of the University of Liberia.  CC gave examples of the “all units” order, saying that a unit ordered to bring 50 men brought 50, and a unit ordered to bring 100 brought 100.  He recalled that some of the units mustered were Taskforce, the Artillery Division, Special Taskforce, Delta, and the SBU.  He stated that he saw all these units together at CARI, a residential area on the way to Monrovia. The witness did not know how to spell CARI, but testified that it was where the Defense Ministry was located, and where many soldiers lived. 

CC testified that many soldiers were gathered at CARI, and that general soldiers were mixed with the Special Forces.  He confirmed that he was taken by truck to the University of Liberia campus at Fendell in Montserrado County. 

CC testified that before going to Monrovia, a communication came from Prince Johnson, then-commander of the INPFL forces.  “At the time, he and Taylor were not together,” CC said, but explained that they were later reunited.  He described Prince Johnson telling Taylor to send troops to him to enter Monrovia, while Taylor’s other troops should enter via another route.

CC testified that the area the NPFL controlled at Fendell was a “buffer zone” known as the “D Ground.”

The NPFL forces, including CC, were told that “the enemy” was ECOMOG, the AFL, Blackbird, ULIMO-J, and ULIMO-K. 

CC explained that on the other side of the “buffer zone” at Fendell was an area controlled by ECOMOG at Mount Barclay, on the road to Monrovia. The witness stated that there was a checkpoint at the D Ground buffer zone.

The witness testified that the Chief of Staff and Defense Minister Woewiyu came and addressed the troops before the assault on ECOMOG.  He recalled Woewiyu talked about celebrating, and told the forces to move on the front line, fall out, move on ECOMOG, and capture Monrovia, because “the President wants to come to Monrovia.”  CC specifically remembered that Woewiyu said ECOMOG was the enemy.

CC recalled that there was a ceasefire between 1991 until Operation Octopus began in 1992.  He stated that Octopus began on October 15, 1992.  During that time, he said, he was commanded by Commander General Christopher Vambo, a.k.a. “Mosquito.”  CC described men being sent to Prince Johnson’s base, and said that he himself was sent to Barnersville; others were responsible for the area from Omega Tower to Redlight.  He stated that Omega Tower was something the Russians used back in World War II, and is part of Montserrado County.  The witness also remembered the “Kuwait Team” taking part in the NPFL operation, and said they were men who came to fight from Sierra Leone.

During Operation Octopus, Prince Johnson arrested the men who had been sent to him from the NPFL, CC said.  He stated that this was because Prince Johnson feared Isaac Musa because they were in competition.  Prince Johnson disarmed the men sent to him.  At the time, CC and his group were waiting for Prince Johnson and the NPFL soldiers sent to him to signal with open fire for CC’s group to attack.  They were still waiting when they received the information that Prince Johnson had disarmed men in the free zone near the ECOMOG base. CC recalled that a general said, “What that man is doing is bad, we’re struggling.”

Eventually after the signal of opening fire, CC said, the joint troops moved to Mount Barkley and moved on ECOMOG. He testified that the Kuwait Team moved toward Barnersville and two other units moved to the Omega Tower. The witness himself moved toward Barnersville; he characterized what followed as a “serious battle.”  He recalled ECOMOG firing from fighter jets and from their gunships at sea.  The heaviest weapon the rebel soldiers personally carried was a “G3 with LAR,” a “German weapon that uses steady rounds.”  CC told the jury that there was no protection from the jets except a concrete building to hide behind, but that “if a rocket fell from there, it could fire on you.”

CC testified that the NPFL rebel forces did have some anti-aircraft guns commanded by the Artillery Division Chief of Staff, with additional fighting commanded by Martina Johnson.  He confirmed that no individual fighter’s weapon could take down the jets, and that only the Artillery Division could shoot at the planes.

CC testified that he saw “Mosquito” during Operation Octopus every day when the soldiers were in formation, and Mosquito came to order them to the battlefield; every day the soldiers would called at Mosquito’s house for orders.  CC recalled that one of Mosquito’s characteristics was a stutter when he spoke.

At one point, CC told the jury, he travelled with Mosquito to pick up ammunition from the Defense Minister at D Ground.  A truck was brought and they took it down to D Ground and then the truck was parked up the hill, he said. They were also accompanied by Mosquito’s bodyguards.

At D Ground, Mosquito met with Defense Minister Woewiyu, because he was the commander, CC said.  CC personally saw them greet each other.  Although he was not allowed to go with them when they spoke, he witnessed Mosquito saluting Woewiyu.  He testified that Woewiyu gave the order to give Mosquito ammunition, and Mosquito told CC to put it in the pickup.  Woewiyu ordered Mosquito be given 15 boxes of ammunition for RPG rockets and AK-47s.  CC knew Woewiyu ordered this because they came around the truck and CC heard it for himself.  Woewiyu said to Mosquito, “You must take care of the frontlines.  Take care of the boys.”  According to CC, Woewiyu gave this statement after giving the ammunition to Mosquito.

CC testified that he then returned with Mosquito to Barnersville, where there was heavy fighting with fire launched from planes and gunships. The witness described retreating all the way into Barnersville to the market; he then retreated onward to Gbarnga and then to Lofa County. CC stated that he took another assignment in Lofa, reporting to the battalion commander there.

The witness described for the jury what a “conniver” was, gesturing between himself and the government prosecutor.  He explained, “When you are with me and then go to the enemy” and “negotiate” with the enemy, and then are found out, you are a conniver; there is a tribunal and then you are executed.  Asked if suspected supporters of the AFL, ULIMO, or ECOMOG were considered “connivers,” CC answered, “Yes.” 

On cross-examination, the witness confirmed that he met with United States government prosecutors in early April.  He explained that he got to know them through friends, after friends gave him information on the phone and recommended that he speak to them.  CC stated he met for one day in Monrovia with government prosecutors, and they spoke through an interpreter.

The witness confirmed that after Taylor became President of Liberia, he personally joined the ATU. He stated that he was assigned to the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, and confirmed that this was not the Executive Mansion he mentioned earlier, which was in Gbarnga.  He testified that the ATU was a brigade of more than 2000 soldiers, and that before joining it, he was in the Special Security Unit (“SSU”), which became the ATU.  CC told the jury that he was in the ATU until Taylor left for Nigeria and for the United Nations.  He confirmed that he was in the SSU from 1997-1999, and in the ATU from 1999-2003.

CC stated that he does not now work for the government, and he did not work for the government after Taylor left.

The witness agreed that Chuckie Taylor, Charles Taylor’s son, created the ATU, and was its “big boss.”  He agreed that in the ATU, Charles Taylor was the only one above Chuckie Taylor.

CC testified that he became aware of the TRC when Charles Taylor went to The Hague.  He told the jury that “those who put the war together must forget and move on.”  He did not know anyone who testified for the TRC, and stated that since Charles Taylor left Liberia, he himself only “does his own business.”  He stated that he was unaware of how the TRC worked, whether they “got” people to speak to them or they asked people to speak to them. He confirmed that he did not know anybody who testified, and that although he heard reports on the radio or television about the TRC, he “did not have time for it.”  CC said that he did not know 20,000 people testified before the TRC. He confirmed that the first time he told his story was in April 2018, when he met with U.S. government prosecutors.

Witness 13: Elisabeth Kaiser

The prosecution called Elisabeth Kaiser to speak as an expert witness to the characteristics of child soldiers, including their psychology. The government began by examining Kaiser as to her credentials.

Kaiser stated that she is a clinical researcher in psychology and a psychotherapist, who works both with the University of Konstanz in Germany, and with various non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”).  She told the jury that she works with trauma survivors at a clinic and also teaches at the University of Zurich, where her classes allow doctors to learn trauma treatment.  She described her patients as suffering the “severe spectrum” of post-traumatic stress disorder, including psychosis, depression suicidal ideation, and drug addictions.

Kaiser explained that to her knowledge, she was called as a witness to talk about the recruitment of child soldiers: why they are attractive to armed groups, and what the long-term consequences of their soldiering are.

Kaiser testified that she received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, focusing on psycho-trauma, from the University of Konstanz in 2008. She also has an M.A. from Yale University, with a focus on domestic violence and abuse situations in the international public health sphere, with a focus on developing countries. 

She described her work history as a “patchwork C.V.,” although Kaiser agreed that her work history has given her an expertise in child soldiers.  She explained that she has been a project officer in African countries for UNICEF and U.N. Women, and specialized in the mental health disorders of children in war.

Kaiser described her work as translating scientific knowledge about the brain through projects applied in the field, including in a large project in Uganda run through an out-patient clinic arising from the crisis of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (“LRA”).  Kaiser explained to the jury that Kony was a rebel leader in Northern Uganda who built a combat group to counter the president, and “recruited” – she explained that by this she meant “abducted” – everyone in Northern Uganda.  Kaiser explained that when children were freed, the government placed them in transitory centers, where she studied 1200 children in a random clinical sample to better understand their disorders.  All had been in the LRA, although not all as combatants.

Kaiser confirmed she had done similar work in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Syria, Rwanda, Somalia, and Congo; she stressed that each country or conflict required an assessment of its particular characteristics.  “We research and then diagnose and then treat and then teach,” she said.

Kaiser testified that she is the founder of Vivo International, an NGO, as well as a member of a professional association at the University of Konstanz.  She received a reward as an outstanding young professional, she said, and told the jury that she has written approximately 50 scientific articles relating to her field, which her team helped produce.  She said that she has spoken on the topic of child soldiers at many professional conferences, both academic and humanitarian.

The witness told the Court that her one previous experience of giving expert testimony was at the International Criminal Court (“ICC”), where she was approached to testify by the sitting judge.  She said that at that time she was asked to be an expert on the issue of child soldiers, and that she anticipated her testimony in the Woewiyu prosecution being “in line” with her testimony at the ICC.  She confirmed that she was compensated at the ICC, and said that here she hoped for an honorarium to compensate her, saying she would like her flight and hotel to be paid.

On cross-examination as to her expertise, Kaiser stated that she studied the clinical history of child soldiers, not the political history.  She confirmed that she did not study the Greco-Roman use of child soldiers, or their use during the American Civil War.  She stated that she was familiar with the current U.S. practice of allowing the recruitment of 17-year-olds.  She clarified that her expertise is in “new wars,” particularly in the features of modern civil wars, not in the “old wars” with a specific front and a specific ceasefire.  She explained that her expertise is in those “new wars” whose victims are predominantly civilians, “very different” from past wars.

Kaiser stated that her Ph.D. is in the natural sciences, so she has studied the biology of brain plasticity.  She testified that she learned what was normal for a 13-year-old or a 14-year-old brain, and told the jury that she would say there was an “age bracket, 12-17, where lots of reorganization of the brain happens.”  However, Kaiser acknowledged there is a difference between the brain of a 12-year-old and a 17-year-old.

Kaiser was then admitted to testify as an expert on the “psychology of children who become soldiers.” 

Kaiser testified that there are two major features that make child soldiers attractive to rebel groups: they are fearless, and they are fearful.  She stated that the “fearless” prong is because children are adventurous and excitable, entering soldiering as a game; they act for fast rewards.  She said they thus make good soldiers because they do not assess the long-term consequences of their actions, not having the judgement to make determinations.  She told the jury that children’s pre-frontal cortex is not developed to the point where children can develop their own morality.

Kaiser testified that contrary to the old assumption that humans’ thought patterns are shaped early on in life, scientists now understand that the brain “opens as a window” to learn in adolescence.  She stated that development in that period comes in three stages: physical coordination; emotional and motivational development; and lastly judgment, or the reasoning and understanding of the importance of actions, as a child nears 17 or 18 years of age.  She said that such development is only finished at the age of 25, although it begins to slow at the age of 20.  Kaiser described these adolescent years, therefore, as a period when “things are not developed to reason or act with sound morality.”

The “fearful” prong of child soldiers, Kaiser testified, is based on their trust of adult mentors.  She told the jury that in this period, children usually live with a caretaker who shows them the rules of life.  She stated that “African education” focuses on a child’s “obedience” to following the “teachings of elders.”  She described children reacting positively to a mentor who teaches them slowly and with rewards, reacting to him as a father, uncle, or older brother.  Conversely, she said, if a “mentor” is cruel or harsh, for example if he kills with no reason, then children will start to doubt him.  She stated that if a mentor figure enforced teachings with violence, children would lose their trust, but they would obey.

Kaiser testified that adolescents mimic conduct of adults because “when the brain window is open,” children are supposed to learn from the social conduct around them; adults in this way teach children how to function.  “So if you grow up in a combat group, you could be a good combatant, but not a good civilian.”

Kaiser stated that it is easy to indoctrinate child soldiers if they are given a good reason to fight, such as a strong enemy, or a threat to a village or harvest.  “If you build a good reason to act together, they will follow,” she said.

Kaiser testified that even if children 12-17 think that they joined a force voluntarily, she would not consider their service voluntary.  She explained that such children have no way of assessing the totality of forces that come together in a civil war: they do not know that their lives will not be normal later; or that they will be stigmatized; or how their actions will be harmful to their mind, body, spirit, or consciousness.  She stated that to adequately judge a situation, they need a base of ethics or morality or a viewpoint, “some solid assumption about the world.”

Kaiser told the jury that it is the cortex that makes a human being distinct from other mammals.  She testified that its plasticity makes children vulnerable, as in that age range, it is possible to shape a pianist, technician, farmer, or combatant.  She explained that the branches of the synapses get “taken down” in that period, as a child focuses on a specific path; it is harder to learn a new path later in life.  She gave a metaphor of the brain in that age range as a developing highway, from which side-streets may be constructed later, but that the highway will already be there.

There was no cross-examination as to Kaiser’s expert testimony.

Witness 14: “DD”

Witness DD testified that he was born in 1977 in Division 27, a complex of the Firestone rubber plantation in Margibi County.  He said that Division 27 is one of the smallest towns on the plantation, and he stayed there until the war.

The witness told the jury that he is a high school graduate, and that he graduated from the Worldwide Mission School System in 2004.  He subsequently enrolled in the University of Liberia, and then dropped out.

The witness remembered the day in 1990 that the war entered Division 27; he was 12 years old.  He testified that men entered the town with guns in their hands and wearing colorful clothes, with bushy hair.  The witness confirmed the men were not wearing military uniforms.

DD testified that the men announced they were from the NPFL.  He said there were five of them, and all were armed.  They entered the town with a man whom DD called Uncle; he was tied up in the “duck fa tabae” style.  The witness confirmed that everyone in town knew Uncle, because it was a small town.  DD said Uncle was a tapper who also did farming, and explained that a tapper got rubber juice from the trees; some were contractors and some were regular employees for Firestone.

The witness told the jury that his father was a tapper.  His mother worked in the home, he said.  DD stated that he also had two brothers, one two years older, and one staying with an uncle.

The witness was shown a picture and confirmed it depicted what he meant by “tabay/tabae style;” he identified the photo as “just how Uncle” was tied.  DD testified that when the NPFL rebels came, the first questions asked were “Who are you? Why?”  Uncle was not a soldier, DD said, but lived the whole time in town with his daughter.  DD explained that at first, when Charles Taylor’s rebels came, everyone in the town was afraid and ran all over, but then the townspeople came back to try to tell the NPFL rebels that Uncle was not a soldier, but the rebels did not listen.  According to DD, the NPFL rebels then beat Uncle up and shot him in the middle of the town, and he was killed.

DD testified that there was fear in the town, and the NPFL took over. People left for the bush, DD said, including him and his parents. He told the jury that his older brother was captured by the NPFL, and that since his brother was captured in 1990, the family has not seen him.

It was “very dangerous,” DD said, with “bad things still happening,” like when the NPFL soldiers would see young girls and women.  He testified that the NPFL would use their weapons to take the girls and women as their “girls” or their “wives,” and “do what they wanted.”

According to DD, his father tried to see if DD’s brother was in the town, but DD’s father was caught by the NPFL, who beat him severely, and he almost died.  “By the grace of God,” he lived, DD said, and he came back to tell the family what had happened.

DD described Division 27 as between Harbel and Kakata; his father said they should get higher, and climb away.  DD explained that Harbel is in the same large Firestone plantation area as Division 27 in Margibi County, and so the family walked in the bush to get to Harbel. There was no way a car could go there, he said, and the family could not go by road. However, before they got to Harbel, they had to pass through a checkpoint that was on the road at the entrance of town.

DD testified that the Harbel checkpoint had rope tied from one side of the road to the other, and was manned by a group of soldiers asking questions before they would let people pass. The first question asked to an individual trying to pass was to which tribe the individual belonged.  DD identified himself to the jury as a member of the Kissi tribe. He testified that if someone was a Krahn or a Mandingo man, they were taken out of line. The last DD would see of them, he said, was a child soldier carrying a weapon and being told to “Take that man out of line.” The witness explained that at this time, if a Krahn or Mandingo came out of a line, they were killed.

The witness confirmed that the NPFL controlled the area, and that he saw some child soldiers as well as adults at the checkpoints.  He identified the children as about his age at the time, 12.  He noticed some of the children were small enough that their guns dragged on the ground.  He affirmed that in Liberia during the war, if it was said to “take someone out of line,” they would be taken out of line and killed.

DD stated that the Harbel checkpoint was decorated with intestines and a human skull.  He said that the second checkpoint in the area was in Harbel Hills, where the Firestone staff lived; that checkpoint was decorated with human intestines.  DD explained that rebels used pieces of each person killed, tying one person’s intestine to another’s. He stated that he also saw a human skull used at a checkpoint at Owen’s Grove.  The witness confirmed that these checkpoints were manned by NPFL soldiers, both children and older people.

DD testified that it was hard to get water in the area of Harbel because of the war. His family could not get water for drinking, although they could find it for cooking. He explained that he had to walk between Harbel center and Harbel Hills for fresh good drinking water. He did not know the distance exactly, but said it was not long, and he would go with children of his own age to get water, including a friend who was living in the staff quarters with his “sister.”  DD confirmed that this “sister” was a relative of some kind, and there were lots of children living in her family’s house during the war because “he was a good man.”

The witness said that his friend’s sister asked where DD was from, and DD answered that he was from Harbel town.  The sister encouraged him to stay in her house, and said they would go down to see his parents, so DD moved in with his friend and his friend’s sister. He identified the sister as older than him, somewhere around 25.  The staff quarters she lived in were a “nice place,” a “very decent house,” DD said.

The sister told DD that she had a friend, and one day while DD was at the house, “Uncle Tom” came to the house with soldiers behind him, and spent some time there before leaving.  DD confirmed that the sister and Uncle Tom were friends, although he did not know how intimate they were.  He confirmed that Uncle Tom would come to the house and leave again, and that later DD heard he was the Defense Minister of the NPFL. When the witness was shown a photograph, he circled Woewiyu and said, “This is Uncle Tom.”

DD testified that Woewiyu visited the sister’s house “once in a while,” with soldiers.  The witness ascribed the bodyguards to Woewiyu being the Defense Minister.  He described Woewiyu as wearing military trousers with a white t-shirt the first time DD saw him.

At one point, Woewiyu came to the house and told DD’s “play mother” that there would be an attack on the highway.  DD, his friend, and his friend’s sister all got into a pickup with NPFL soldiers to leave Harbel Hills; the witness confirmed Woewiyu was not with them.

DD stated that the pickup headed to Buchanan, stopping at a checkpoint near Cotton Tree along the way.  According to DD, at Cotton Tree the soldiers left to get food, and DD and the others were left in a long queue of people.  He described Cotton Tree as on the way between Buchanan and Harbel, which was why there was a checkpoint there.  DD testified that it was an NPFL checkpoint and that the soldiers there were asking the same questions he had heard at the Harbel checkpoint, focusing on people’s tribes.

DD testified that on that day, he saw many bodies in the swamp ground near the checkpoint.  He explained that typically the NPFL would take Krahns or Mandingos there for execution.  He stated that child soldiers were the ones who killed them.  DD testified that child soldiers were used for killing, and that adults would tell them, “Hey, take this man over there.”  The witness said that the Cotton Tree checkpoint used rope tied from one end to the other, and that in the present it can still be seen there.

According to DD, his group had no problem with travel at the checkpoint, as they were with NPFL soldiers and under the protection of the Defense Minister, although DD affirmed Woewiyu was not traveling with them.  The witness stated that they came to another checkpoint at Owen’s Grove, and that this was where he saw the human skull he mentioned before.  DD testified that every checkpoint he passed had child soldiers, including at Owen’s Grove.

DD testified that once his group went through the check point, they proceeded to the flour mill near Buchanan, where they came into contact with Koko Dennis, one of the NPFL generals.  DD recognized Dennis in a photograph, and said Dennis had a leg problem, and so he limped when he walked.  The witness then stated that although he knew Dennis was a soldier, he did not know what role he played.  He only knew that Dennis was “one of the top soldiers” and that he had men under his control.  DD did not recall Dennis’ relationship to Woewiyu, but affirmed he had men under his command.

The witness stated that his group stayed in Buchanan for some days, and then moved onto LAC, where the sister left the two boys with soldiers.  DD was not sure where she went.  He explained that “LAC” was the name of another company with a rubber plantation, and characterized it as a “long distance” from Buchanan, one or two hours’ drive.  He stated that LAC is in Grand Bassa County.

DD testified that one day Woewiyu came to the compound in LAC, where soldiers were called from various towns to attend a meeting.  DD was not sure how many came, but knew it was a large number.  Woewiyu told the gathered men to “Be vigilant because the Chief says at any time may be an attack.”  The witness knew Woewiyu said this because he was standing within the fence when Woewiyu came to the meeting, and listened to him say it.  At the time Woewiyu was making this statement, DD was walking from “the gate,” and testified that by the time he returned, the soldiers had dispersed.

DD described Koko Dennis returning a few days later with two men tied tabae-style; Dennis said they were “on recognizance” as spies.  According to DD, Woewiyu was at the fence with Dennis and the men. Dennis asked the men why they would not talk, saying, “Your Chief is here and asking, and you don’t respond.”  DD identified the “Chief” as Woewiyu. When the men did not answer, DD said, Dennis gave an order to cut their ears.  DD testified that Woewiyu did not respond to the situation, although he was standing next to Dennis.  The witness stated that an ear was cut from each suspected spy, and Dennis said, “Take them away.”  DD did not know where the men were taken.  Prior to the cutting of their ears, the men were pleading and crying, DD said, insisting that they were not soldiers and did not know anything about soldiers. 

The witness testified that after a few days he saw his friend’s sister with “Uncle Tom” and a little boy they were calling “Tom.”  The witness thought he was named after Woewiyu but was not sure.

DD told the jury that he was afraid because of all the killings going on, so when he went to fetch water, he escaped from the compound.  DD confirmed the NPFL was killing people in the area, and stated that if “Uncle Tom” was around, everything was fine, but that if he was not around, the soldiers misbehaved.  The witness described running away to the bush and trying to look for his family, and joining a group making its way to Buchanan, where he was “caught by CRS” and relocated to his family.

On cross-examination, DD confirmed that he never fought in the war and that no one asked him to fight.  He confirmed that he was aware of the TRC, but that he never gave nor sought to give testimony.  He confirmed that when Woewiyu was around everything was better, agreeing that there was “better order when he was around than when he was not.”

On re-direct, the witness confirmed that Woewiyu stood next to Koko Dennis and did nothing when the suspected spies’ ears were cut off.  He stated that the soldier who brought the “spies” in was a general who was giving direct commands. The witness did not recall Woewiyu saying anything to the prisoners himself. The witness confirmed that Woewiyu was in charge during the incident.

On re-cross, the witness clarified that he did not say it was the President’s brother who brought the spies to the compound.

Witness 15: Mark Stucke

The final witness of the afternoon was Mark Stucke, who identified himself as a journalist who currently owns and runs a distribution company for documentaries and current affairs news reports.

Stucke testified that he was a videographer and journalist from the late 1980s until the late 1990s, and told the jury that he worked in approximately 10 wars and created approximately 50 news reports in the form of 10-minute documentaries.  He identified some of the conflicts and conflict areas from which he reported, such as the Russian War in Afghanistan; the Liberian First Civil War; South Sudan; the end of apartheid in Soweto, South Africa; Sarajevo and the Balkans; and Burma. He confirmed that he had covered active combat many times.

The witness stated that he reported from Liberia twice, in 1992 and in 1996. In 1992 he traveled as a freelance journalist with a colleague, he said, who went along but did not report in-depth.  He described the entry process as “normal” for such a situation, obtaining connections via a political office in London that would arrange political cover to keep the journalists safe.

Stucke explained that as a freelancer, he was always looking for a “different” story that “mainstream” news could not access, but that broadcasters would have difficulty refusing.  He testified that given the Nigerian ECOMOG troops’ “direct fractious situation with a rebel group on the ground,” Liberia struck him as a place of interest.

The witness entered Liberia with his colleague via Ivory Coast, he said, reaching an Ivorian NPFL safehouse and then driving across the river into Liberia with a “senior NPFL character” whose first name Stucke remembered as Ben.  He stated that he had no idea exactly where they were going, because the two journalists were entirely in NPFL hands, but stated the journalists’ expressed objective was to go “where the action was,” “to the heart of the story.”  Stucke testified that the journalists spent their first night in Gbarnga at a house described to them as “Ben’s family house.”

The next day, he said, they continued onward for “some distance” until at the end of the day they reached a “rough, crude situation in the bush.”  When they parked, they were immediately surrounded by NPFL soldiers with guns, and the next thing Stucke knew, he was meeting Charles Taylor.

Stucke estimated that on the journey from Ben’s house to Taylor, they passed 20 checkpoints.  He described these checkpoints as “very crude” and “never exactly the same,” but all populated by young, frenzied, malnourished rebel soldiers in “every state of dress.”  Some were practically naked, and very few – if any – had military uniforms.  Stucke explained that he had never seen in other conflicts the particular elements by which the checkpoints were typified, including decorations of skulls and different amulets; he characterized this as the individual look of the NPFL faction.

Stucke recalled that there were skulls at two or three of the estimated 20 checkpoints he passed through, and called the checkpoints “always very frightening.”  He explained that Ben, the senior NPFL commander, was “plainly nervous,” and used a “big bag of cash” to pay to get through each checkpoint.  The witness stated that his recollection of individual checkpoints was hazy, but that he did not recall seeing any human remains other than skulls.  He characterized the checkpoint soldiers as being two-thirds made up of children under 18, with the youngest probably age eight.  The child soldiers often appeared malnourished, Stucke said. They were excitable and noisy, shouting as soon as the car had stopped.

According to Stucke, the structure of the checkpoints varied, with some being merely sticks across the road, but confirmed that the fighters manning them were armed, “if you can call machetes arms.”  He said the child soldiers were armed with machetes, knives, guns, and sticks.  He stated that throughout his two weeks in Liberia in 1992, he saw a reliable mix of boys and girls who were child soldiers.  Stucke said there were fewer girls, but they were armed at the same ratio as the boys.

The witness testified that he later came to understand the significance of the children’s state, but at the time only noticed that they were manic and hyper.  He explained to the jury that he was learning a new environment at the time, and that he had never previously been to West Africa.

When Stucke arrived at Charles Taylor’s camp on his second day in Liberia, he said, he parked with a couple of other cars in a clearing and then walked 5-10 minutes down a forest track.  He described seeing one or two buildings, but stressed that the camp was “really in the bush.”  He testified that he saw many young soldiers typical of those he had seen so far.

Stucke testified that he met Taylor shortly after arriving at the camp, and said Taylor seemed prepared to give an interview.  Stucke supposed that Taylor had been expecting them.

Stucke confirmed that the soldiers he saw were typical of those he had seen and would see on his trip, dressed in “every state” and with a proclivity for women’s clothing, and amulets and spiritualistic totems.  He described understanding the child soldiers nearest to Taylor to be clearly more senior, as they were slightly better dressed.  According to Stucke, there were 10-20 child soldiers around Taylor while the journalists conducted their interview, and these children were better armed and “more standardly” armed than the other child soldiers Stucke had seen.  He confirmed they were the same range of ages as the other child soldiers he had seen, and was sure that they were treated differently.

Stucke testified that he later came to know what the difference was between children in “special units” and the others, but stated that on that interview day he just noticed that there were some children who were in his pictures of Taylor “clearly, with a presumed right to be there close to Taylor.”  Over the following days, Stucke said, he noticed that he came across some military vehicles that carried a different type of child soldier from the others he saw, usually in new or unusual vehicles painted with side writing saying “SBU” or “Small Boys Unit” or painted in a camouflage print.  The proportion of youths in these vehicles was higher than in Stucke’s day-to-day experience, and those youths carried authority, such that other soldiers approaching were afraid of them.  If Stucke himself attempted to approach, he was pulled back or discouraged from going near them, and was told they were “dangerous” and that he should “stay away.”

On the evening Stucke was interviewing Taylor, he said, it began raining and fighter jets bombed the area midway through the interview.  He testified that everyone scattered and charged into the forest, including Taylor.  Stucke knew the jets belonged to ECOMOG because “no one else had the wherewithal;” the witness pinpointed the bombing as toward the end of October 1992.

Stucke testified that the two main areas he wanted to see were Firestone because it had been bombed, and the front lines in Gardnersville, to see “the action.”  He stated that he was drawn to Firestone because he had heard it was aerially bombed by ECOMOG, and that the NPFL was happy to take him there.  Stucke and his colleague slept in the main residential quarters there over the next few days, and saw the injured at Firestone Hospital, and what was described as a residential area that had been bombed.  They also interviewed the American manager.

The witness confirmed that the NPFL controlled everywhere he and his colleague went until they left for the Ivory Coast and flew back to Liberia by another route.  He confirmed that it was otherwise not possible to switch between covering different factions.

Stucke testified that the two journalists were taken to Gardnersville because they asked to see the frontlines, and Ben arranged their trip.  Ben took them to the area one morning and handed them over to a group of young fighters for the day, with the local commander placed in charge of the journalist.  Ben then left, the witness said.  He described his colleague as mostly the camera man and himself as the principle journalist, but explained that they both filled multiple roles on this trip.

The local commander at Gardnersville was older than the rest of the fighters there, Stucke said.  He characterized the fighters in Gardnersville as “typically” dressed, with many wearing women’s clothes, and young fighters down to boys aged 9-10.  He confirmed that he stayed with them all day.

“There was immediate evidence that we were close to serious action,” he said, based on the incoming gunfire and shelling.  He described the main direct action as on the road, but said that it branched out toward the end of the day.

Stucke testified that he was not sure what exactly the local commander wore, but that he wore shorts without a shirt, and may have been barefoot or in sandals, with something on his head.  Stucke explained that it was difficult to tell one outfit from another because they were all mixed up.

Stucke testified that child soldiers were actively engaged in combat in Gardnersville, and that the majority of them were younger than 18.  He said that the local commander was in his 30s, and was the only fighter present older than 18 or 19.  The witness stated that the child soldiers were mostly using AK-47s, although there were some RPGs, which the witness identified as shoulder-held guns which fire shells placed down the barrel and which have a range of a few hundred yards, delivering the impact of a hand grenade at the other end.  He confirmed that he saw lots of fire and that there were shells firing from the other end of the road every few minutes; later in the day, fighter jets flew overhead.  He said the operation the NPFL was engaged in was called “Octopus.”

The prosecution played a video that the witness recognized as his own footage from his 1992 trip to Liberia, showing a child running with a gun and then a man in shorts and a beret.  Stucke recognized the man as the local commander, the leader of the contingent with which the journalists spent their day at the frontlines.  He recalled that the leader referred to a command structure to which he reported.  The witness recognized that the video showed a man carrying RPG shells and another man carrying an AK-47, and that the child running with the gun was one of the younger of the group.  Stucke confirmed that the child was engaged in combat like the rest, and said that they were in a “very dangerous situation” where somebody would be if they had a “strong reason, either fighting or recording.”

The video was resumed, and showed a child with an AK-47 running down an alley, and the local commander pointing at the sky.  The witness identified the leader as pointing at jets that were bombing another area, and confirmed that the jets were ECOMOG’s, because “no one else had jets in that area.”  Stucke then identified a female soldier in a denim jacket at the start of a video sequence as a young commander.  The video showed a fighter in a corset, which Stucke said was typical of those wearing women’s clothes; it also showed a fighter in an amulet, which he likewise identified as typical of NPFL soldiers’ dress.  The video showed footage of a fighter in a top hat, which Stucke said he thought was shot near the Firestone factory, but he was not sure, because “such a typical scene could have been shot any day anywhere.”

On cross-examination, Stucke confirmed that at Charles Taylor’s camp, Taylor’s fighters were not shooting anything, firing mortars, or attacking anyone.  He confirmed that the peacekeepers’ jets dropped bombs near the camp, and said that it was clear that Taylor’s soldiers thought the bombs could be directed at them.  He stated that the camp “had the feel of a jungle hideout.”

Stucke confirmed that Ben was “high up” as an NPFL commander, but nervous at NPFL checkpoints.  He stated that Ben could not get through the checkpoints on his own, nor could anyone else.  He confirmed that Ben had authority, but said that Ben had to recount his right to that authority at each checkpoint, and then when the soldiers confirmed he was someone important, he was let through.  The witness confirmed Ben had to give the checkpoints money, and that it “defined the chaos and craziness of the entire experience.”

Trial will resume on Tuesday morning, when the government will call a new witness to the stand.



The third week of the trial of Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu ended on Thursday when the defense rested its case.

Witness 32: Marsilina “Marsha” Eikerenkoetter, Continued

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The first week of the trial of Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu ended on Thursday with emotional testimony from the government’s witnesses.  Over the course of the week, the jury heard fro

When trial resumed on Wednesday morning, one of the jurors was not present.  That juror was recused and replaced with an alternate.

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