Taylor trial resumes as accused returns to courtroom 20 Aug 2008
The trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor has resumed following a two-day delay in proceedings. The accused had refused to come to Court due to the imposition of new security measures.

Following a two-day delay, the trial of Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) in The Hague resumed on Wednesday 20 August.

The ongoing trial of the former Liberian president is the last to be heard by the Special Court after closing arguments were held on 4-5 August 2008 in the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) case in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Charles TaylorThe Prosecution case in the Charles Taylor trial was due to resume on 18 August 2008 after a four-week summer recess. However, Lead Defence Counsel Courtenay Griffiths informed the Court on Monday that Charles Taylor would not attend the trial until newly-implemented security issues imposed on the accused had been resolved.

Accused before the SCSL are entitled to exercise their right not to attend the court hearings although the judges can continue the trial in their absence.

New security measures

Charles Taylor objected to the raising of his security level during his transportation to the Court, from medium to high level, prompting a submission from the Defence to temporarily adjourn proceedings on Monday. The new measures, which were not related to the accused’s conduct or behaviour, are being imposed on Taylor and two other detainees at the Detention Unit in Scheveningen – one from the ICC and one from the ICTY.

In particular, Griffiths told the Court the new measures involved Taylor being chained around his waist during the journey to Court, which he finds particularly degrading.

More generally, Griffiths is highly concerned with the conditions in the ICC wing of the Detention Unit where Taylor is held with four other African indictees. According to Taylor’s counsel, the prison conditions are one of the first issues Taylor’s Defence team will raise with the Court when its case begins later this year.

Presiding Judge Doherty informed the Court that the Trial Chamber is not satisfied with the reasons why Taylor has been submitted to increased security measures and stated that this could potentially lead to a serious disruption of the trial. The Trial Chamber directed the Registrar to find a speedy resolution and report back to the Court on Monday 25 August.

Half-way point for the Prosecution

To date, the Trial Chamber has heard testimony from 35 of the projected 67 Prosecution witnesses in the case. Since the trial recommenced on 7 January of this year after numerous delays in 2007, the Court has heard terrifying testimony, including stories of cannibalism, amputations, rapes and kidnapping of children. The Prosecution seeks to establish a link between the evidence presented by the witnesses and Charles Taylor’s involvement in the Sierra Leone war during the 1990s.

The Taylor trial is expected to last until mid-2009.

The Trial Chamber is expected to give it judgement in the case against three RUF members in October 2008.

Charles Taylor

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