Taylor 'controlled' Sierra Leone rebels

2011-03-11 19:13

Leidschendam - Prosecutors accused Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor Friday of directing Sierra Leone rebels who maimed and murdered civilians as judges prepared to consider their verdict in his war crimes trial.

"He controlled the RUF", Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front, prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian told Special Court for Sierra Leone judges of Africa's first head of state to face an international tribunal.

"Charles Taylor, as all in the RUF knew, was the sponsor of that organisation. He was directing the RUF not only militarily but also politically."

Taylor's trial on charges of arming RUF rebels in exchange for illegally mined so-called blood diamonds, is set to adjourn later Friday after a trial of more than three years for the judges to consider their verdict.

Judgment is expected to be delivered in the European summer.

"He is an intelligent man and can be very charismatic," Koumjian told the judges of Taylor.

"Intelligent and charismatic people can fool some of the people some of the time but they can't fool all of the people all of the time. He is counting on the fact that he can fool you, and I don't think that he can."

Greatest responsibility

The court has previously heard that Taylor fuelled war in West Africa out of greed and a lust for power.

"Charles Taylor bears the greatest responsibility for the horrific crimes committed against the people of Sierra Leone through the campaign of terror inflicted on them," co-prosecutor Brenda Hollis told the court in February.

He "was in charge of, put in place, directed, nurtured and supported the campaign of terror", she said, "to forcibly control the people and territory of Sierra Leone... and to pillage the resources, in particular the diamonds".

Prosecutors say the RUF was Taylor's "surrogate army".

The Sierra Leone civil war claimed some 120 000 lives in the 10 years to 2001, with RUF rebels mutilating thousands of civilians by hacking off their limbs.

Judges trying Taylor have heard gruesome testimony from victims of the conflict, including a witness who said he pleaded with RUF rebels to cut off his remaining hand so they would spare his toddler son.

Others said Taylor's fighters strung human intestines across roads, removed foetuses from the wombs of women and practiced cannibalism.

Case of deceit

In exchange for his support, prosecutors claim, Taylor received "mayonnaise jars" of illegally mined so-called blood diamonds from the RUF, a handful of which he presented to supermodel Naomi Campbell at a charity dinner hosted by South Africa's then-president Nelson Mandela in 1997.

One witness said he was present when the Liberian leader ate human liver.

"Lies," 62-year-old Taylor told the court in July 2009 of 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity that include murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers, enslavement and pillaging.

"This whole case is a case of deceit, deception, lies," he said. "I am not guilty of all of these charges, not even a minute part of the charges."

Taylor, who has previously boycotted sessions of the trial, was in court on Friday.

Dressed in a dark grey suit, crisp white shirt and gold cufflinks, he listened attentively from the dock, making occasional notes.

Read more on:    charles taylor  |  liberia  |  north africa  |  war crimes  |  charles taylor trial  |  blood diamonds
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