Since its opening in The Hague on 4 June, the trial of the former president of Liberia has ran into one delay after another, illustrating the unpreparedness of the registrar's office in this case. After having fired his lawyers and having boycotted the opening of the trial, Charles Taylor has benefited since 1 August of a new, and solid, defence team.
But faced with "the complexity" of the case, the 40 000 pages disclosed by the prosecutor, Courtenay Griffiths argued, without opposition from the prosecutor, for a delay of four months. Effective, the lawyer from the London Bar, of Jamaican origin, found a favourable reception from the three judges.
The four months granted will also make it possible for the defence to analyze several boxes of documents, giving in Monrovia by a source which the lawyer refuses to reveal the identity. "Documentation which comes from the personal records of the defendant", he simply explained, and in which "we found a personal letter from the former (American) President Jimmy Carter to the defendant", slipped the lawyer, as a simple example, he argued. A way of also revealing his first cards. This letter proves that Charles Taylor "was implied in many peace negotiations for Sierra Leone".
On the other side, the prosecutor, Brenda Hollis, did not formulate any opposition. The deferral of the trial until next January will make it possible for the judges to render a decision on several motions that are still pending. The defence has requested that the 76 direct witnesses of the crimes not be allowed to testify. "The prosecutor wants to make the case emotional by bringing from West Africa the victims of the conflict", stated the lawyer at a press conference organized following the hearing, but "nobody denies the horrible acts which were committed during the civil war", which resulted in nearly 150 000 dead in ten years.
Griffiths proposed that the prosecutor calls only the witnesses likely to say "which were the link between the defendant and the RUF [Revolutionary United Front] and up to a certain level". The most difficult part for the prosecutor.
From neighbouring Liberia, Charles Taylor acted by proxy. His allies in Sierra Leone, the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front, of which he had met the leaders in the military camps of the Libyan President Mouammar Kadhafi, allowed him to take the control of the country, to seize its diamantiferous riches according to the prosecutor. The defence has again evoked the question of the freezing of assets and travel bans issued by the United Nations against the former accomplices of the former warlord.
According to Griffiths, "many [witnesses] are afraid to be targeted if they are associated to the President". "No procedures have been started against these people" he reminded, denouncing an arbitrary decision by the United Nations: "We do not know the reasons for which the Security Council took these measures". In Monrovia at the beginning of August, the defence of Taylor went on television, and on other media, to invite potential witnesses to testify in favour of their former president, responsible for one of the bloodiest civil wars in West Africa.
© Hirondelle News Agency