Terror tactics described at Taylor trial
( AP ) - Charles Taylor rewarded militia fighters who killed babies during West Africa's civil wars and called one woman's unborn child an "enemy" who must die, a former militia commander testified Wednesday.
During a grim day at Taylor's war crimes trial in The Hague, Joseph "Zigzag" Marzah said he committed hundreds of murders on the former Liberian president's orders. He claimed Taylor celebrated his rise to power with a human sacrifice, burying a pregnant woman alive in sand.
"We executed everybody - babies, women, old men. There were so many executions. I can't remember them all," Marzah told the court.
Taylor, 59, is accused of orchestrating violence in neighboring Sierra Leone's civil war from his presidential palace in Liberia. He is accused of trading so-called "blood diamonds" to finance the war, which ended in 2002.
Prosecutors described Marzah as one of their key witnesses, testifying with inside knowledge of Taylor's operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where he is accused of responsibility for the murders, rapes and amputations committed by fighters loyal to him.
The first former African head of state to face an international tribunal, Taylor has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He is being tried by the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Among Taylor's victims were opponents and allies accused of betrayal, Marzah said.
Taylor ordered one guerrilla commander known as Superman executed and had his severed hand brought to him as proof of his death, the witness said. The killers ceremonially ate Superman's heart, and afterward were given $200 each. They were told it was "cigarette money" from Taylor.
Taylor often leaned forward with a scowl as he listened to Marzah's testify for more than five hours.
Asked under cross-examination if he had any "pangs of conscience," Marzah replied "yes," but said he had no difficulty carrying out orders. "I was a servant to my chief, Charles Taylor," he said.
He was adamant that Taylor had specifically ordered him to chop off hands, and paid a monetary reward to those who killed babies. He recalled receiving an order from Taylor to cut open a woman close to giving birth because the unborn child "is an enemy."
Under prompting from defense counsel Courtenay Griffith, Marzah said, "It's not difficult to kill a baby. Sometimes you just knock them on the head, sometimes you throw them in a pit, sometimes you throw them in the river and they are dead. Then you give the report to Charles Taylor."
Marzah said Taylor celebrated his rise to power on the beach behind White Flower, his executive mansion in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. He said a pregnant woman was placed standing up in a pit between two oil drums and covered with sand. Then a white sheep was killed on the spot.
"It was a sacrifice," Marzah said. Taylor "was the first person to put sand in his hand and put it in the hole."
Marzah said the event happened in 1995, even though Taylor did not come to power until he won an election in 1997.
At other times, Marzah became frustrated and angry when questioned about the timing of events, saying he had been with Taylor "from beginning to end" and had done too much to recall every date.
Marzah described militia checkpoints meant to terrify the population, with human heads mounted on sticks and human intestines used as rope to barricade roads.
"We put heads on sticks for people to be afraid. When the person is executed, the stomach is split and you use the intestine as a rope," he said. Marzah said he saw Taylor pass through such checkpoints at least eight times.
Taylor's National Patriotic Liberian Front was told on several occasions to show no mercy to civilians, said Marzah.
He made us understand that you have to play with human blood so enemy forces would be afraid of you," he said.
Marzah described himself as Taylor's chief of operations and commander of the Death Squad, which specialized in executions. He said he smuggled both arms and diamonds for Taylor.
Marzah also described intercepting a four-vehicle convoy when Taylor was a rebel commander before his rise to power. The convoy was believed to be carrying Liberia's then-President Samuel Doe, but Doe was not there. Taylor was called for instructions
Taylor "said to execute them with knives," Marzah said. "There were about 72 of them, and we executed them with knives the same day."
Marzah said the ambush was happened shortly before Doe was killed in Monrovia in September 1990.