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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs