Charles Taylor, President of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, is the first African president to face trial for war crimes. On 31 April 2004, the Special Court for Sierra Leone ruled Taylor’s position as former Head of State could not prevent him from being prosecuted by an international tribunal.
Charles Taylor is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, rape, sexual slavery, other inhumane acts and enslavement); five counts of war crimes (acts of terrorism, murder, outrage upon personal dignity, cruel treatment, pillage); and one count of other serious violation of international humanitarian law (enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces). On the opening day of the trial, the Prosecution laid out a case which placed Taylor at the centre of a systematic campaign of terror waged against civilians in Sierra Leone after 30 November 1996.
Due to security concerns over holding the trial in Sierra Leone, Charles Taylor’s trial is being conducted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone at the premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Timeline of the Trial
When Taylor's trial began on 4 June 2007, Taylor boycotted the proceedings and was not present, justifying his absence on the grounds that he was being denied a fair and impartial trial as he had not been given enough time to adequately prepare his defence.
On 20 August 2007, Taylor's defense, now led by Courtenay Griffiths, obtained a postponement of the trial until 7 January 2008, on which date the first Prosecution witness was called.
In January 2009, the prosecution finished presenting its evidence against Taylor and closed its case on 27 February 2009, after calling a total of 91 witnesses.
On 4 May 2009, a defense motion for a judgment on acquittal was dismissed, and arguments for Taylor's defense began in July 2009.
Taylor testified in his own defense between July and November 2009.
The defense rested on 12 November 2010.
On 8 February 2011, the Trial Court ruled in a 2-1 decision that it would not accept Taylor's trial summary, as the summary had not been submitted by the 14 January deadline. In response, Taylor and his counsel boycotted the trial and refused an order by the court to begin closing arguments.
On 3 March 2011, the appeals court of the SCSL overturned the trial court's decision and ordered the trial court to accept the summary set a date for the beginning of closing arguments.
The prosecution and defence finished their closing statements on 11 March, and the judges retired to consider their verdict.
A decision is expected by late-summer 2011.
View the Charles Taylor trial live online