Charles Taylor to testify before the SCSL 13 Jul 2009
The Defence for former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, has opened its case at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague.

Charles Taylor is accused of 11 counts of crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of International Humanitarian LawOn Monday 13 July 2009, the Defence for former Liberian President, Charles Taylor opened before Trial Chamber II at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). During the subsequent presentation of the Defence case, Charles Taylor will take the stand as the first Defence witness.

In a fiery opening statement by Mr. Courtenay Griffiths QC, the substance of the testimony of Charles Taylor was outlined, with the Defence seeking to undermine the Prosecution case. Mr. Griffiths attacked the case for still being unclear at this stage of proceedings, saying that the central question remains as to how Taylor is responsible. Citing various rationales of the Prosecutor, Mr. Griffiths accused the Prosecution of a “lucky dip” approach. Furthermore, the Defence hinted at revelations that will follow in Taylor’s testimony, making several references to the “shadowy involvement of foreign powers”, specifically the US and the UK in Sierra Leone.

The Prosecution case for the accused warlord was completed on 27 February 2009 following 205 days of court sessions and after the 91st witness gave his testimony at the end of January. On 4 May 2009 the Trial Chamber unanimously dismissed a Defence Motion to acquit Charles Taylor under Rule 98bis, allowing the trial to continue on the basis of all of the original charges against him.

Systematic campaign of terror

Taylor is charged with 11 counts of crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, including murder, rape, acts of terrorism and enlisting child soldiers.

The Prosecution claims that Charles Taylor was at the centre of a systematic campaign of terror waged against civilians in Sierra Leone during the country’s civil war from 1996 to 2002. The war, and a parallel war across the border in Taylor’s Liberia, was characterised by forced amputations and the perpetration of atrocities by drug-fuelled child soldiers, together claiming the lives of more than 250,000 people.

Prosecutors sought to prove a link between Taylor and the rebel groups that operated in Sierra Leone during the civil war. It was argued by the Prosecution that Charles Taylor directly supported the most notorious of these rebels - the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Foday Sankoh - in order to destabilise the country. Dismissing the Motion for acquittal, the Chamber said that sufficient evidence existed to suggest that Taylor provided material support to the rebels, offered them "safe haven" in Liberia and also traded in 'blood diamonds'. Earlier this year, in the so-called RUF case, the Special Court convicted three former commanders of the RUF for their role in the atrocities.

The Hague

The SCSL was created to try those bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes committed in the country since 30 November 1996. Unlike for other defendants, proceedings against Charles Taylor are in progress at the premises of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for security reasons, with the RUF case the last of the trial proceedings to be heard in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Taylor's rebel forces, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), launched an offensive to overthrow then Liberian President, Samuel Doe in December 1989In January 2009, Taylor’s son was sentenced to 97 years’ imprisonment by a court in the United States under a US law allowing for the prosecution of torture committed by US citizens abroad. While not under the jurisdiction of the Special Court, details of the acts perpetrated by ‘Chuckie’ Taylor in his father’s Liberia add to the testimonies of murder, rape and other heinous crimes already heard before the Special Court.

Charles Taylor is the first African President to face trial for war crimes. Taylor was also named in the recently released report of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) set up to investigate gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia from 1979 until the signing of a peace agreement in August 2003. According to the report, Taylor is responsible for international crimes committed during and after his 1989 invasion of Liberia. The Commissioners’ recommendations include the prosecution of Taylor for these alleged crimes by an Extraordinary Criminal Tribunal for Liberia.

Charles Taylor

Live streaming of proceedings

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Court Documents / Documents juridiques

Second Amended Indictment
29 May 2007

(uniquement en anglais)

Video link: Prosecution opening statement
4 June 2007

Press Release: Trial Chamber Dismisses Motion for Acquittal
4 May 2009

(uniquement en anglais)

 

Related news items / Informations complémentaires

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25 February 2009

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Liberia's Charles Taylor takes stand in war crimes defence
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