A defence witness in the ongoing trial of Liberia’s Charles Taylor has rebutted charges that the former warlord used child soldiers within his rebel forces.
“Mr Taylor did not use children in combat or to man checkpoints,” the witness only identified as DCT-008, told the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court at The Hague this week.
“The NPFL (Taylor’s rebel faction) did not have any unit called the SBU (Small Boys Unit),” a court report quoted the witness as saying.
“The SBU was the name given to young boys who were with their big brothers and sisters, but they were not part of the NPFL,” the witness explained.
The former Liberian leader is facing 11-counts, including the conscription of child soldiers and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed during the civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Prosecutors allege that the SBU comprised of children, who were forcefully conscripted and used for combat purposes by Mr Taylor’s rebel forces in Liberia.
The prosecutors, headed by Brenda Hollis, also argue that Mr Taylor used underaged children not only to fight in frontlines, but also to man NPFL checkpoints.
Ms Hollis further alleges that the SBUs also served as bodyguards to NPFL rebel commanders during the 14-year civil war in Liberia.
The witness also refuted allegations that Mr Taylor personally had SBUs assigned to him, telling the court: “To my knowledge, Mr Taylor never had SBUs around him.”