[10/11/2022] Day 2: biography of Kamara

This second day of hearings was dedicated to the personality of Kunti Kamara.

Before hearing the various witnesses, the presiding judge (the President) informed the parties that the Swiss authorities had agreed in principle to the temporary loan of the detainee Alieu Kosiah. However, the agreement of the latter is necessary to proceed with the transfer.

Hearing of Stéphanie Thiébaut, personality investigator at the Association de Politique Criminelle Appliquée et de Réinsertion Sociale (APCARS) [TCP20]

The investigator recounted her October 2018 interview with Kunti Kamara. She indicated that Kunti Kamara was born on 1er December 1974 in Kamplay City, Liberia, and that he was married with a daughter and a son from two separate unions, aged 25 and 23 respectively. Prior to his arrest, Kunti Kamara had been living alone in Evreux (Normandy) since October 2016. He reportedly had a peaceful childhood until he was 14 or 15, when the civil war broke out. His mother was killed in 1989 during an NPFL attack in which he himself was reportedly injured.

It was following this event that Kunti Kamara fled to Guinea where he remained until he was 17. It was during this period that a growing sense of revolt was born in him, leading him to return to Liberia and join the ULIMO to fight the NPFL. He fought in the ranks of ULIMO until 1997, when the first civil war ended. Kunti Kamara was then allegedly encouraged by Charles Taylor’s government to go to Guinea to fight. He stayed there for three years before moving to the Netherlands, where he was granted asylum in 2001. Kunti Kamara remained in the Netherlands for 12 years and obtained Dutch citizenship. He worked there as an electrician and finally made his way to Belgium and then France in October 2016 after a few months in Guinea and Liberia.

When he arrived in France, he was first hosted by Faliku Donzo (a member of the association of Liberians in Evreux), then by Marie Meledje, an Ivorian woman he met in his neighbourhood, and received unemployment benefits. 

With regard to his personality, the investigator indicated that Kunti Kamara saw himself as a very helpful person. This trait was appreciated by those who knew him. They also described him as intelligent and discreet, with a quiet and reserved nature. The investigator indicated that it was difficult for him to talk about his experiences.

The Court questions Stéphanie Thiébaut

On questioning by the Chairperson, the investigator stressed the importance of the Muslim religion in Kunti Kamara’s life, referring to the words of his entourage. The reasons why Kunti Kamara returned to Guinea after the end of the first civil war were also mentioned. The latter is said to have indicated that he had gone to warn the Guinean government of Charles Taylor’s plans to attack.

In addition, the Chairperson asked the investigator about the reasons why Kunti Kamara had left the Netherlands. He reportedly indicated that he had left the Netherlands because of (i) the language barrier, (ii) the tax burden and (iii) the impossibility of obtaining family reunification.

The prosecution questions Stéphanie Thiébaut

Upon questioning, the investigator said Kunti Kamara told her that he met his first wife Maddy in Lofa County. Their daughter was born in 1995 in Liberia. Kunti Kamara had no desire for a child, but still wanted to assume his fatherhood.

The Public Prosecutor questions Stéphanie Thiébaut

On questioning, the investigator stated that it was usual for the people she investigated to provide her with few names of people to contact. The persons contacted by the investigator in France did not mention Kunti Kamara’s background, as he gave little information about himself. Kunti Kamara also did not tell her which members of his family he wished to repatriate to the Netherlands.

The defence questions Stéphanie Thiébaut

Defence counsel questioned the investigator about her knowledge of the context of the civil war in Liberia, which she admitted to knowing very little about. Finally, defense counsel raised the lack of field investigation in Liberia by the investigator, concluding that she had no way of verifying the accuracy of the information collected.

The Chairman read out the testimony of Faliku Donzo of 5 September 2018

When questioned by investigators, Faliku Donzo stated that he was a Liberian refugee, living in Évreux, also from the Mandingo ethnic group. He was president of the association of Liberians in Evreux. Kunti Kamara was introduced to him when he arrived in Évreux during 2017. He housed him, fed him and assisted him in his administrative procedures with the French authorities for 4 or 5 months. During his deposition, Faliku Donzo mentioned Kunti Kamara’s secretive side, which revealed very little information about his past and personal life.

The Chairman read out the testimony of Mariama Keira of 5 September 2018

Mariama Keira was in contact with Faliku Donzo. She said she knew Kunti Kamara through him. She described him as very generous and always ready to help. She also mentioned his silent side.

Hearing of Layee Bamba, called as a witness at the request of the Public Prosecutor [TCD29].

Layee Bamba was asked about Kunti Kamara’s personality. He said he was born in a town near Kamplay City and belongs to the Mandingo ethnic group. He first met Kunti Kamara in Evreux when he was president of the Liberian Association in France – a country to which he reportedly fled in 2001. He stated that he knew the accused’s older brother at the time of the events.

Court questions Layee Bamba

On questioning by the President, Layee Bamba indicated that his family was a victim of NPFL. He stated that he had considerably assisted Kunti Kamara in various administrative procedures in connection with his arrival in France and his hasty departure in 2018, and in particular with the issuance in favour of Kunti Kamara of a false Guinean pass to enable him to join this country. This false document was found at Layee Bamba’s home. Layee Bamba also bought a bus ticket to Lisbon (Portugal) for Kunti Kamara. Layee Bamba also stated that he hosted Kunti Kamara in September 2018, as the latter had claimed that he was obliged to leave the French territory due to a residence problem. He had regular contact with Kunti Kamara.

When asked about the personality of the accused, Layee Bamba described him as a discreet, trustworthy, kind and helpful man. Layee Bamba stated that he had no knowledge of the abuses committed by Kunti Kamara. Layee Bamba further stated that he had no contact with Kunti Kamara’s older brother and that he had not participated in the civil war.

The prosecution questions Layee Bamba

Layee Bamba confirmed that Kunti Kamara’s brother had told him that Kamara was part of ULIMO. Layee Bamba referred to the massacres of which the Mandinka were the first victims. He indicated that he had no knowledge of the crimes committed by the ULIMO group.

The Public Prosecutor questions Layee Bamba

Layee Bamba said that he had last seen Kunti Kamara in Liberia in 1990 and that he had not witnessed anything about the life and career of Kunti Kamara in Liberia. On question, he clarified the acronym of the association of which he was president and its meaning: LIMAF, Liberian Mandingo Association in France. He said that he did not create this association himself and that it was intended to welcome all Liberians, not only Mandingos.

When asked about the alleged ‘networks’ in Liberia where ‘people’ are ‘bought’ that he mentioned earlier, Layee Bamba said these echoed the corruption of political staff.

Defence questions Layee Bamba

The defense rebounded on the issue of corruption and Layee Bamba indicated that all Liberians were “bought”. Layee Bamba finally clarified that Kunti Kamara had never intended to escape his trial in France.

Hearing of Mohamed Kenneh [TCD29].

Mohamed Kenneh introduced himself as the former president of the Liberian Association of Normandy. He described the accused as a “super” nice person and that everyone who knew him in Evreux agreed on this point.

Court questions Mohamed Kenneh

Mohamed Kenneh said that he was in Guinea when the civil war broke out in Liberia and that he had met Kunti Kamara in Evreux. On questioning by the court, Mohamed Kenneh stated very firmly that the accusations against Kunti Kamara were false and that Kunti Kamara was “a good man”.

When asked about Kunti Kamara’s violation of the obligations attached to his judicial supervision, Mohamed Kenneh confirmed that he had provided a certificate of accommodation to the court according to which Kunti Kamara was residing at his home.

The prosecution questions Mohamed Kenneh

Mohamed Kenneh corroborated Layee Bamba’s speech regarding the existence of corrupt networks and confirmed that he knew that ULIMO was an armed group. 

The Public Prosecutor’s Office questions Mohamed Kenneh

Mohamed Kenneh gave a confused answer on the question of who the victims of the corrupt networks were. Mohamed Kenneh said that he did not know Kunti Kamara when the war broke out and that he did not know whether Kunti Kamara had been involved. He said that Kunti Kamara told him that he had to testify in the trial of Alieu Kosiah, whom Layee Bamba said he knew by name.

Defence questions Mohamed Kenneh

The defence recalled that Mohamed Kenneh had sheltered Kunti Kamara when the latter was under judicial supervision. However, Kunti Kamara returned home in defiance of his obligations. Mohamed Kenneh explained that Kunti Kamara had to return home because Mohamed Kenneh was receiving guests from Guinea. Mohamed Kenneh said that he had not imagined that this would be a problem. Mohamed Kenneh said that when Kunti Kamara learned that police officers had come to Mohamed Kenneh’s house, Kunti Kamara asked him to take him to the police station.

*           *           *

The interrogation of Kunti Kamara’s personality continued.

On questioning by the President, Kunti Kamara did not wish to comment on the testimonies of the people he had met in Evreux, which the President had read out earlier.

The President returned to the family background of Kunti Kamara. The latter confirmed that he had several brothers and sisters from the same parents, who were now living in Guinea and Liberia where they were trading. He stated that he regularly sends money to his family in Africa and that he owns a house in Guinea where his sister lives. Kunti Kamara stated that he had not seen his family since 2015, when he went to Liberia to celebrate his traditional wedding with Massita Toure before returning to Belgium for professional reasons. Kunti Kamara explained that he never lived with his wife and that family reunification in Europe was not possible.

Kunti Kamara then confirmed that he was the father of two children from two different mothers, Fatou and Adama; he specified that he only maintained contact with his daughter Fatou.

When asked about his childhood, Kunti Kamara spoke of being educated in a Muslim school and studying the Koran with his father from an early age. He described his father as a loving man who cared about his education. His father died in 1984 and the rest of the family was left to rely on the resources of his mother’s older brother. Kunti Kamara said that he obtained a school certificate in 1988 after completing high school.

The President then asked Kunti Kamara about the arrival of NPLF troops in Nimba County where he resided with his family. Kunti Kamara said that several members of his family were killed by the NPFL. He and his sister were injured and fled to Guinea where they joined his father’s brother. Living conditions in Guinea were difficult because of inter-tribal fighting. Kunti Kamara stated that he joined ULIMO at the instigation of Alhaji Kromah, in particular to defend his ethnic group persecuted in Liberia by Charles Taylor’s troops.

The President continued the questioning on the end of the war. The President confronted Kunti Kamara with the allegations of a witness who had appeared before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who claimed that a ULIMO colonel named Kundi had offered to sell him arms after the occurrence of the general disarmament of armed groups in 1997. Kunti Kamara categorically denied this. He also stated that he obtained the rank of colonel in 1995 and that he was a simple civilian after the disarmament. When asked why he fled Liberia for Guinea after the ceasefire, Kunti Kamara said he had sought to warn the Guinean authorities of the new mobilization of Charles Taylor’s troops and the possibility of their intervention in Guinea.

When asked about his arrival in Europe, Kunti Kamara said that he had come to the Netherlands by boat for political reasons. Confronted with his contradictory statements to Dutch immigration authorities, he suggested that he needed protection and that he was told that people “who give a good story” were protected. He was granted political asylum and then Dutch citizenship in 2012.

When asked about his life in the Netherlands, he said that he had been trained as an electrician, which allowed him to work. He stated that he had left the Netherlands for Belgium because he was no longer employed. When confronted with his statements to the investigator that he had left the Netherlands because of the language barrier, the tax burden and the impossibility of bringing his family to the Netherlands, Kunti Kamara said that he had applied for family reunification, but that his friends had advised him to come to Belgium. Kunti Kamara explained that he had concluded an open-ended contract in Belgium, which was terminated upon his return from his stay in Liberia and Guinea.

He indicated that he had decided to go to France at the invitation of Faliku Donzo. When confronted with Faliku Donzo’s statement that he did not yet know Kunti Kamara when he arrived in France, the accused indicated that many people did not want to tell the truth and that Faliku Donzo had invited him to come to France and helped him with the administrative procedures.

The President then questioned Kunti Kamara about his flight to Bobigny and his arrest in early September 2018. Kunti Kamara said several people had informed him of rumors circulating about him that members of the Kissi ethnic group were trying to “lie” about him and other Mandingo people.

Kunti Kamara then claimed that he wanted to flee to Liberia, via Guinea, and said “I have no problems with Liberia, nobody is looking for me there“.

The President then recalled that Kunti Kamara was remanded in custody on 6 September 2018 before being released and placed on judicial review due to a technicality. His judicial review came with various obligations, including the obligation to remain at Mohamed Kenneh’s home, which he failed to comply with. He was therefore remanded in custody from 10 January 2020. Kunti Kamara stated that he had not intended to escape while under judicial supervision, otherwise he would have done so.

The President reviewed Kunti Kamara’s prison record. The President read out the detention reports, which show his participation in paid (kitchen work) and unpaid activities (football, FLE classes, sport), good physical and mental health, and no support or visits from people outside.

The prosecution questions Kunti Kamara

When asked about the birth of his daughter Fatou in Foya in 1995, Kunti Kamara said that he was unable to attend because he was on the front line in Banga. He also indicated that he was in Bomi at the time of disarmament in 1997. When asked about his visits to the Netherlands, he said that he met with Abu Keita and two other ULIMO veterans in Amsterdam, but that he did not consider them friends.

When asked about his status as a combatant in the ranks of ULIMO, Kunti Kamara drew a parallel with the Second World War and stated that not all members of an armed group are systematically guilty of atrocities. He again claimed innocence of the crimes he is accused of. Kunti Kamara warned against the rumours circulating about him. However, it was noted by the civil parties’ lawyer that Kunti Kamara had failed to mention his participation in ULIMO to the Dutch immigration authorities for fear that his asylum application would be rejected.

Prosecution questions Kunti Kamara

On questioning, Kunti Kamara indicated that the family reunification procedures he had undertaken in the Netherlands concerned his ex-girlfriend Maddy Kamara and her daughter Fatou. He also said that he had no contact with Adama’s mother.

Asked to comment on a sentence he uttered during a telephone conversation about the imprisonment of Alieu Kosiah (“You know the miscreants, we have to release him. I had a Dutch passport and I was a Dutch citizen. I was there, I was working there, they took me out of there. I came over here”), Kunti Kamara said he did not remember.

When asked about the degree of organization he displayed during his escape to Bobigny in 2018, Kunti Kamara did not deny that he meticulously organized it for fear of the rumors that were circulating about him. He said he initially had no intention of fleeing, but that his friends had warned him that many people were trying to bring him down. He said it was strange to hear that he was being accused of acts he had not committed. He explained that he had obtained a false pass issued by the Guinean Embassy because he was afraid that his Dutch passport would expire and be entered into an immigration control system.

When asked about the different identities he uses for his Facebook account and the e-mail address attached to it, he explained that he uses the names of family members or friends, which is common in Liberia.

Defence questions Kunti Kamara

Asked about his release on 5 September 2019 and the seriousness of the charges against him, Kunti Kamara said he was aware that he was facing a very heavy sentence and that he would have had plenty of time to go to Africa after his release under judicial supervision. He indicated that he nevertheless preferred to remain in France because he knew he was innocent and was willing to prove it.

Hearing of Philippe Oudy, psychologist

Expert Philippe Oudy presented the psychological expertise report he drew up on 24 October 2019 following his interview with Kunti Kamara with the assistance of an interpreter.

The expert described Kunti Kamara as a person who expresses herself without distrust or reticence and who is sensitive to the interest shown in her. and anxious to show herself in the best possible light. His parental references are very inadequate and disturb his relational balance. The person concerned does not show any intellectual dysfunction likely to alter his perception of reality. His capacity for reasoning and judgement also appear to be sufficient. He is presented as being able to make precise and detailed statements. His attention and memory are not presented as deficient. The expert noted the existence of important defence and adaptation mechanisms, and the particular inexpressiveness of the person’s affects in relation to his life history.

The Court questions Philippe Oudy

When asked about Kunti Kamara’s lack of parental guidance, the expert said that this led to difficulties in asserting himself and in relating to others.

When asked about Kunti Kamara’s stated fear of women, the expert felt that he appeared to be relatively ambivalent on the subject, since he has several women in his life.

The Public Prosecutor questions Philippe Oudy

On the subject of the discrepancy between the atrocious facts and the image of Kunti Kamara given by his entourage, the expert stated that the Rorschach method did not make it possible to demonstrate latent aggressiveness in the person concerned. The expert confirmed that he had already observed this discrepancy in other expert reports.

The defence questions Philippe Oudy

When asked about the Rorschach method, the expert indicated that it was an extremely classical and quite old test, practised all over the world. On questioning, the expert confirmed that Kunti Kamara had not mentioned the civil war during their interview. The expert also confirmed that the use of an interpreter was likely to cause a loss of certain feelings and that he was not used to assessing African people who spoke English.

The expert confirmed that Kunti Kamara had been anxious to present a favourable image of himself because of his strong assertiveness, categorically denying each of the accusations, which is common in such cases.

Hearing of Dr. Daniel Zagury, psychiatrist

The expert Daniel Zagury presented his psychiatric expertise report made on April 23, 2019 after examining Kunti Kamara on April 6, 2019 with the help of an interpreter.

The expert described a person who was quite at ease and keen to offer the best image of herself and her life story, answering questions in a detailed and comprehensive manner. Kunti Kamara maintained emotional control throughout the examination. He did not show any depressed or gloomy state. He said that he did not understand the accusations against him and referred to false testimony that enables those who make such accusations to obtain asylum in Europe.

Kunti Kamara was presented as a person with strong family and religious values. According to the expert, the strength of his commitment to his dispossessed people and his ethnic group forced into exile is central to his story. The expert interpreted this as legitimizing his commitment to a just cause. The expert noted a great reserve in Kunti Kamara to show her emotions and feelings, which is a characteristic of African culture, as well as an inability to acknowledge her flaws and contradictions. Kunti Kamara described his war record to the expert in a detached manner, without emotional expression, and stated that he was never driven by revenge. He described a happy life that ended abruptly with the death of his mother.

According to the expert, Kunti Kamara does not have any psychological pathology and his criminal responsibility should be considered as complete. The expert does not detect any psychiatric pathology and does not consider that Kunti Kamara is in a dangerous state in the psychiatric sense that could compromise public order or the safety of persons.

The expert notes a discrepancy between the horror of the alleged acts and the ordinary personality of Kunti Kamara, evoking the idea of a historical parenthesis. According to the expert, the crime becomes easy to commit in certain circumstances (historical context, inversion of values, commission of acts in the name of obedience). The expert evoked the idea of anticipated self-defence which exempts the perpetrator from any guilt, as well as a commodification of victims which leads to indifference to the other. The expert concludes that ordinary people who do not have a propensity for such acts can commit such atrocities.

The expert notes that in cases where the charges are confirmed, denial of the past is common since the atrocities are confined to a specific historical parenthesis. Once this parenthesis is closed, the person concerned rebuilds himself by denying his criminal past.

The Court questions Dr. Daniel Zagury

On questioning, the expert clarified that Kunti Kamara did not mention self-defence, but that this was an interpretation given by the expert. The expert added that the most consistent element in Kunti Kamara’s account was the threat to his ethnicity.

The prosecution questions Dr Daniel Zagury

When asked about the justifications for the crimes, the expert said that defendants often claimed that there was a plot against them by people who had something to hide.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office questions Dr Daniel Zagury

On questioning, the expert confirmed that he had often encountered this idea of conspiracy. When asked about the affects expressed by Kunti Kamara, the expert noted a great reserve in showing her emotions and feelings, but also a certain difficulty in recognizing her faults and contradictions. 

The defence questions Dr Daniel Zagury

The expert, when asked about this, indicated that the apparent lack of affect of the person concerned did not mean insensitivity to events, but rather was a cultural characteristic very much present in African culture.

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