News / Africa

Charles Taylor War Crimes Trial Ends

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor during his trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam (file)
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor during his trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam (file)

The war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor has ended after more than three years.  A verdict from the U.N.-backed special court is expected later this year.

Mr. Taylor is pleading not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged support of rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone who murdered, raped, and mutilated civilians during the country's civil war.

Chief prosecutor Brenda Hollis asked judges to find Mr. Taylor guilty on all counts.

"Credible evidence in this case proves this accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of each and every count of this indictment," she said.

Mr. Taylor's lead defense attorney Courtenay Griffiths says the prosecution is making assumptions in the absence of proof.

"It is somewhat surprising that there is very little direct evidence to link the accused to the crimes alleged," he said.  "For the most part, this prosecution's attempt to link the accused to the alleged crimes has largely focused on hearsay, circumstantial evidence, and broad assumptions."

Griffiths says prosecutors have "besmirched the lofty ideals of international criminal law by turning this case into a 21st century form of neocolonialism." Hollis says Griffiths overlooks the fact that it was the government of Sierra Leone that asked the United Nations to establish this special court.

"And there is also a perverse sort of logic in this argument. And the logic seems to be that unless the heads of African states will create courts or can create courts to punish crimes within their country, even crimes that offend everyone of us as members of the global community, unless they do that, the rest of the world should simply butt out," she said. "Because if they don't do it, then these victims should be left without justice. Somehow they deserve lesser justice. We suggest to you that is not the case."

Griffiths criticized Hollis for calling to the stand the British model Naomi Campbell who allegedly received diamonds from Mr. Taylor following a dinner in South Africa. Campbell testified that she did not know who sent her what she called several "dirty looking stones" until breakfast the next morning. Griffiths told the court he is at a loss as to how a gift of diamonds in South Africa links Charles Taylor to the purchase of arms.

"The calling of Naomi Campbell was a complete disaster for the prosecution," he said. "My learned friend, Miss Hollis, was left looking at a bleeding hole in her foot and a smoking gun in her hand, asking 'I didn't know it was loaded.' Because they ended up first of all seeking to impeach their own witness. Then when that didn't work trying to abandon her. 'Oh, she is not a prosecution witness after all.' Well who obtained the subpoena to call her?"

Griffiths says Mr. Taylor is the victim of "selective prosecution" because Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore were equally responsible for backing rebels in Sierra Leone. Hollis says no one's role in this conflict compares with Mr. Taylor's

"He was at the very center of the web of the crimes in Sierra Leone. Gadhafi? Compaore? They helped build that web and they helped maintain that web through Charles Taylor," she said. "The international community did not go to Gadhafi, did not go to Blaise Compaore. They went to Charles Taylor because he was the one who had control over leaders of these groups that were perpetuating such horrific crimes."

The U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone can not impose the death penalty. So if convicted, Mr. Taylor faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid