Appeals Chamber rules that the judges at Charles Taylor's trial must accept his closing summary 04 Mar 2011
The Special Court for Sierra Leone must accept former Liberian President Charles Taylor's final written summary of the case to avoid breaching the accused's fundamental right to present his defence.

The trial of Charles Taylor, the first African leader to stand trial for war crimes, has been taking place for over three years at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, and had been scheduled to finish in early February after closing arguments from the prosecution and defence. However, the Trial Chamber judges rejected the defence team’s 547-page final summary on the grounds that it had been filed 20 days after its due date of 14 January 2011.  Mr Taylor’s defence laywer, Courtenay Griffiths, argued that, by refusing to accept the document, the Trial Chamber was denying Mr Taylor his right to a fair trial, and both he and Mr Taylor left the court and boycotted the prosecution’s two days of closing arguments. Mr Griffiths stated that he could not file the summary on time because the court had not ruled on several motions. Mr Griffiths won the right to appeal the Trial Chamber’s ruling.

On 3 March 2011 the Appeals Chamber ruled in Mr Taylor’s favour.

The Appeals Chamber judges ruled that a failure to accept the filing of the summary could lead to "a miscarriage of justice" and the trial judges had failed to check if Taylor understood the consequences of refusing to file the final brief on time. The Appeals Chamber judges stated that the Trial Chamber acted unreasonably in concluding that the silence of Mr Taylor indicated that he was aware that he was waiving his fundamental right to present his defense.

The Appeals Chamber directed the court to accept the document, noting that, were it not for the fundamental rights of the accused, the Trial Chamber would have been right to conclude that the defense final brief was filed out of time and would not be accepted. The Appeal Chamber directed the Trial Chamber to set a date for the defence's closing oral arguments, as well as rebuttal arguments from both parties.

In response to his boycott, the Trial Chamber began disciplinary proceedings against Mr Griffiths, warning that he could be removed as Mr Taylor's lawyer or fined. The defence team subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the disciplinary action. On 25 February 2011 Julia Sebutinde, one of the Trial Chamber judges, refused to attend Mr Griffith’s disciplinary hearing on the basis that she was opposed to punishing him. Presiding Judge Teresa Doherty adjourned the hearing indefinitely.

Charles Taylor denies 11 charges of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery and conscription of child soldiers during the civil war in Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002.

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