The trial of former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor resumes Monday in The Hague. Taylor, the first African leader to go before the International War Crimes Tribunal, is charged with 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the decade-long Sierra Leone civil war that ended in 2002.
Elise Keppler is lead counsel with the International Justice Program at the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. She told VOA prosecutors plan to quickly introduce several witnesses.
“From what we understand, during today’s resumption of the trial, the proceedings should move very quickly into the presentation of witnesses. And the first witness should be an expert in the diamond industry, the Kimberley Process which is the process that has been part of making diamonds conflict free,” she said.
Keppler said the prosecutor promises to introduce as many as 144 witnesses.
“Later in the week, we expect a crime-based witness and also a witness who is an insider from Liberia who will give evidence to the linkage between Taylor and the crime. This of course is perhaps the critical component to the presentation of the case. The defense has not particularly contested that crimes were committed in Sierra Leone. And so the central issue would be the Taylor connection to those crimes. Three categories of witnesses would be shown throughout the trial – expert witnesses of which I understand that eight would be testifying live, crime-based witnesses of which they anticipate would be between 60 and 70, then approximately 60 linkage witnesses who will discuss the alleged link between Taylor and the crime,” Keppler said.
The Taylor trial adjourned last summer after Taylor complained he was not getting a fair trial. Taylor also fired his defense team. Keppler said the former Liberian president has got a new defense team.
“Taylor fired his defense team or attempted to fire his team on the first day of proceedings. Since that time the judges ordered that he could in fact fire his defense team and have a new defense team. And that new defense team has come on board. If I have the name correct its Mr. Griffiths, the lead counsel. It’s a, from what I understand is a strong defense team, and the team has been working since August. They requested four months to prepare the case following their appointment, which is an important aspect to ensuring a fair trial,” Keppler said.
She said the trial of Taylor is very important from the human rights standpoint.
“Bringing Taylor to trial is absolutely vital and hugely significant from Human Rights Watch perspective. Taylor is alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. These crimes relate to mutilation, murders, amputation, and sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers. He allegedly bears the greatest responsibility for these crimes. And given those charges, it is crucial that he be brought to justice and face trial,” Keppler said.