The past few days at the Trial of Charles Taylor – see charlestaylortrial.org – has seen some important testimony relating to child soldiers – or Small Boy Units, as they have been referred to in the context of the civil war in Sierra Leone. See this previous post which provides background on the trial and its relevance to child soldiers. Importantly, Charles Taylor has been charged with:
Conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups or using them to participate actively in hostilities.
Which is punishable under Article 4.c. of the Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. In particular, the indictment alleges that between November 30, 1996 and January 18, 2002 throughout Sierra Leone, members of the RUF, AFRC, ARFC/RUF Junta and/or Liberian fighters:
assisted and encouraged by, acting in concert with, under the direction and/or control of and/or subordinate to [Charles Taylor], routinely conscripted, enlisted and/or used boys and girls under the age of 15 to participate in active hostilities. Many of these children were first abducted, then trained in AFRC and/or RUF camps in various locations throughtout the country, and thereafter used as fighters.
The recent questioning of prosecution witness Alimamy Bobson Sesay, a former AFRC commander, revealed the following in this past week:
Wit: I didn’t say in my testimony that we marked boys with “RUF” and “AFRC”, but it happened. There were other things I didn’t talk about.
Pros: Who did this to the small boys?
Wit: The RUF and AFRC.
Pros: How were these done?
Wit: With blades.
Judge Sebutinde: Are you leading new evidence?
Pros: This arose out of the witness’s answer and cross-examination.
Judge Sebutinde: Continue, if defense doesn’t object.
Def: I object.
Pros: These issues arise from clarifications arising out of the witness’s previous answer.
Judge Doherty: The line of questioning has now gone beyond clarification and is not permissible in re-examination.
…unfortunately because of procedural issues, the prosecution was limited here in the extrapolating on this new line of questioning.
Another section of testimony (posted on) April 29th is particularly pertinent.
Def: You used to train SBUs, about 10 years old?
Def: In several places you made these young boys amputate people’s arms?
Wit: Yes, we had orders from the commanders. I passed on the command.
Def: I’m asking what you did. Did you make these small boys cut off people’s hands?