- Title: NETHERLANDS: Witness at Charles Taylor trial recounts horrors by child soldiers
- Date: 8th January 2008
- Summary: (FLASH) THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS (JANUARY 8, 2008) (REUTERS) EXTERIORS OF THE COURT
- Embargoed: 23rd January 2008 12:00
- Location: Netherlands
- Country: Netherlands
- Topics: War / Fighting
- Reuters ID: LVA71US2CRKGDVIWEH3EJVUPNP2O
- Story Text: Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was once one of Africa's most feared warlords. Now he is on trial at the Hague's Internatinal Criminal Court for the second day on Tuesday (January 8) for orchestrating rape, murder, mutilation and recruiting child soldiers during the civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone in 1991-2002.
Prosecutors say Taylor sought to plunder Sierra Leone's diamond wealth and destabilise its government by supporting the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.
In harrowing testimony, Alex Tambateh, a 47-year old pastor, told the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone how he saw a rebel commander from Liberia he called "Rocky" shoot 101 people. "Rocky" only spared his life because he was a pastor.
Showing the court his mouth, Tambateh also explained how a rebel knocked out his teeth with a pistol.
He said they used child soldiers referred to as SBUs, small boys unit.
"After he killed civilians he gave instructions to decapitate them. It was rocky who gave orders to SBUs, Small Boys Unit below the age of 15 or 16, some could not even lift their guns," Tambateh told the court.
Tambateh said the man he referred to as Rocky was from Liberia.
"He introduced himself as Rocky. His real name is Emmanuel Williams, from Liberia. He said he was a member of the Bassa tribe," he said.
Tambateh told about horrific murders committed: "The boy was screaming as the other boys cut his wrist. They took his left arm and sliced it off as well then they cut both his legs at the ankle as well with a machete and then they swung him for a while and finally threw him in a toilet pit."
Tambateh -- from the eastern diamond district of Kono -- recounted how rebels voted on whether to spare his life and how they carved the initials RUF into the bodies of abductees.
Taylor is the first former African head of state to face an international court. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He appeared in court wearing a dark suit and a gold tie.
His defence lawyers do not contest that atrocities took place in Sierra Leone but dispute Taylor's involvement.
They say bringing victims to the Hague is a tactic by prosecutors to boost emotional impact.
Earlier the court heard from blood diamond expert Ian Smillie, who said the RUF used brutality to frighten people away from diamond fields that earned them up to 125 million US dollars a year.
Smillie, who met Taylor in 2000 while investigating diamond smuggling as part of a U.N. probe, said diamonds were the primary source of RUF funding and most left through Liberia -- impossible without the complicity of the Liberian government.
More than a quarter of a million people died in intertwined wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Prosecutors want the trial to end decades of impunity for ousted African strongmen, who have often fled overseas to live out their days unpunished.
Prosecutors expect a judgment by the end of 2009, though an appeal would be likely to stretch into 2010.
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