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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    What Your First Name Says About Who You Support for President

    Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump while people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora