March 31, 2008— -- Charles Taylor, warlord and former president of Liberia, ordered his militias to eat the flesh of captured enemies and U.N. soldiers, according to the testimony of a former militia commander at Taylor's war crimes trial. The trial resumes today after a two-week recess.
"[We] throw your head away, your intestines, we take it and put it in a pot and cook it and eat it," explained Joseph "Zigzag" Marzah, who claimed to be one of Taylor's inner circle and ate the organs of enemies together with Taylor.
Marzah said Taylor instructed his men to eat the flesh of captured enemies and U.N. soldiers. He also described slitting open the belly of pregnant women with pen knives, burying a pregnant woman alive and displaying decapitated human heads on the bumpers of cars all on Taylor's orders. "We executed everybody -- babies, women, old men. There were so many executions, I can't remember them all," said Marzah.
Taylor's lead counsel Courtenay Griffiths Q.C. told ABC News that Marzah's testimony should be thrown out. "Marzah repeatedly left the room to send and receive text messages on his mobile phone during the testimony. He is not credible," he said.
Taylor, who served as Liberia's president from 1997 to 2003, is charged by the Special Court for Sierra Leone with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Sierra Leone during the country's roughly 10-year conflict that officially ended in 2002.
The case is being tried at The Hague instead of in Sierra Leone to reduce chances of sparking unrest in the west African state or in neighboring Liberia.
Prosecutors have accused Taylor of murdering and mutilating civilians, including cutting off their limbs, using women and girls as sex slaves, abducting adults and children, and forcing them to perform forced labor or become fighters to further his economic and political ambitions in the region.
Taylor, the first former African head of state to appear before an international war crimes tribunal, has denied all of the 11 charges against him.
Griffiths told ABC News that Taylor is confident he will win the case. "He is fine and is up for the fight. He is very pleased with how the trial is going," said Griffiths. "The prosecutors thought they would have an easy time, but they are not," he said.
Human rights activists say that Taylor was directly involved in the atrocities that occurred in Sierra Leone even though Taylor has asserted that he was not.
"All evidence points to his direct involvement. There are thousands of witnesses," said Ian Smillie, research director for the nonprofit research organization Partnership Africa Canada. Smillie was an expert witness in Taylor's trial who testified that Taylor plundered millions of dollars in blood diamonds (diamonds exchanged for arms) in order to fund his militias.
Prosecutors said they have launched an investigation to locate the fortune Taylor made from Sierra Leone's diamonds that they say Taylor is hiding.
Smillie said that investigation will be difficult to crack. "Criminals don't keep records. There is no receipt book. He didn't give orders on camera," he said.
Taylor has denied pillaging or hiding any cash.
The war crimes trial began in June of 2007, but Taylor "boycotted" the opening because he said his counsel lacked the resources to properly defend him. The trial was halted for seven months and resumed in January 2008. Griffiths said he expects it to last 18 months.