The trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor resumed briefly Monday in the Hague, with the defendant once again boycotting the proceedings. At issue is his defense, which Taylor says is inadequate. He is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in orchestrating the brutal 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone. Lauren Comiteau is covering the trial and has this report for VOA.
Prosecutors were ready to call their first witnesses again in a trial that has already had two other false starts. But with Charles Taylor not in the dock - again - judges were left issuing orders about what Taylor's defense should look like. The former leader who is accused of fomenting a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone in order to gain control of its diamond wealth said earlier this month that he wont come to court to participate in a legal charade.
He demanded top quality lawyers and high level investigators to match the resources he says the prosecutors have. He fired his last lawyer, saying he wanted to represent himself.
On Monday, the principal defender, a court official responsible for defense issues, said Charles Taylor was willing to cooperate if his demands were met. Presiding judge Julia Sebutinde said Taylor was obliged to appear at his trial, but the visibly fed-up judge agreed that his defense was not given the highest priority, and she blamed that on the court officials.
She said she has been warning them for months about a potential delay. On Monday, the trial chamber's worst fears have been realized.
"Nothing practical seems to have been done to address the problems," she said. "The focus of the registry has not been to provide the defendant with adequate representation as provided by Article 17 of the statute. Rather, the registry's focus has been on conserving funds and staying within budgetary constraints. In the trial chamber's view, the whole issue has wrongly boiled down to availability of finances, rather than fair trial issues being addressed."
Judge Sebutinde said if the trial is to be expeditious and fair adequate money and resources must be provided for Taylor. She then ordered the registry to set up some kind of representation for him by next week. And by the end of the month, she said she wants to see a fully functioning defense team in place, including three lawyers and a senior investigator.
The principal defender objected, saying there was not enough time, but the judge made it absolutely clear that in one-week's time, the prosecution's case will begin.