The Hague, February 3, 2011 (FH) - The delivery of the oral arguments, scheduled for February 8 and 9, is expected to bring to an end next week the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).

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Charles Taylor was indicted in 2003 with eleven charges including crimes against humanity and crimes of war committed in Sierra Leone between 1996 and 2002.

According to the Prosecution, Taylor backed up the rebellion of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in order to take control of Sierra Leone's diamond mines. The Liberian warlord allegedly provided the RUF with weapons, ammunition, and communication tools in exchange for gems.

The Prosecution opened their case on 4 June 2007 and called to the box 94 witnesses, including 31 "insiders", former members of Taylor's entourage who had turned against him.

The Defence opened their case on July 2009 announcing 249 witnesses but concluding hearings on November 12, 2010 after calling to the stand only 21 witnesses, including Mr. Taylor himself.

Charles Taylor did not deny that war crimes were perpetrated in Sierra Leone but he declined any responsibility for them and claimed he never participated in the diamond trafficking. "I am not the moron to whom people were bringing diamonds in mayonnaise jars", he told the judges in an apparent reference to the Hollywood movie Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage.

Twenty-five witnesses testified for the Prosecution with regard to the diamond connection between the RUF and Taylor. However, people who were "directly implicated in giving diamonds to Taylor are all dead", the Prosecutor admitted.

Taylor's closest aides, his financier Ibrahim Bah and his right-hand man Benjamin Yeaten, have neither been indicted nor called to the witness box.

Charles Taylor will be the first Head of State to be sentenced by an international tribunal, as Slobodan Milosevic died a few months before the judgment. Taylor was arrested on March 29, 2006 in Nigeria and subsequently transferred to the Netherlands where he has been in custody since then. If he were to be convicted, he would serve his sentence in Great-Britain.

The SCSL was set up in 2002 jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations. It is mandated to "try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996".

Thirteen indictments were issued by the Prosecutor in 2003. Four of the accused died before being tried, including the leader of the RUF, Foday Sankoh. Eight have been judged and sentenced to 15 to 52-year jail terms.


© Hirondelle News Agency