The Special Court for Sierra Leone – Face to face with Charles Taylor (Part 1)

He was impeccably dressed, wearing a double-breasted suit, a blue-silver tie and shaded, gold-rimmed glasses, each hand decorated with a big golden ring. When former Liberian President Charles Taylor entered the court room at 9:25 A.M. this morning, he cordially greeted his defence lawyers, looked at the public, then sat down – at about five yards distance from where I sat. When his eyes met mine, it seemed as if he nodded – he greeted me I thought, and automatically I greeted back.

At 9:30 A.M. sharp the court session was opened. The trial against the 61-year old former leader – once the most wanted man in West Africa – had resumed. Today, April 6, Taylor’s defence team was making its No Case Submission (Rule 98 Submission). This submission is an oral submission by the defence that the prosecution has not proved it’s case or has not rendered sufficient evidence on one or more of the counts in the indictment. I will leave the legal technicalities out here, those interested can read more here.

The 11 charges against Charles Taylor include acts of terrorism, unlawful killings, enlisting child soldiers, planning of a joint criminal enterprise. According to the prosecution he and the late Foday Sankoh, leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), connived to bring the diamond-rich regions of Sierra Leone under their control and each promised the other to give assistance to topple the sitting regime: Doe in Liberia and Momoh in Sierra Leone. The promise dated back to their stay in Muammar Gaddafi‘s Libya where they received a military training in the late 1980s.

Interestingly, another alliance linked Charles Taylor to then captain Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso (though not discussed during this session of the Special Court for Sierra Leone). Taylor promised Compaoré to help get rid of (then President) Thomas Sankara in exchange for Compaoré’s assistance in chasing Doe. Whereas any involvement of Charles Taylor in the killing of President Sankara in October 1987 has never been proved, the participation of Burkinabe soldiers in the NPFL-invasion of Liberia on Christmas Eve 1989 is an historic fact.

The accused showed little, if any, emotions while Mr Morris Anyah, one of his his lawyers, spoke. In general, the defence counsel did a tremendous good job, I admired his eloquence and competence. Charles Taylor listened carefully and made notes; on two occasions he corrected him, when his defence confused the year in which an alleged act took place. I could not help thinking of the high costs of the Special Court (about USD 200 million) and that he – Mister Taylor or Charles Taylor as he often was referred to during the trial – had a much better treatment than most if not all of his victims.

To be continued..

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