July 6, 2007
The Special Court for Sierra Leone held a short press briefing today led by the Acting Registrar of the Special Court, Herman von Hebel, to provide an update on the formation of Charles Taylor’s defense team. As the Special Court’s June 25, 2007, decision stated, by July 31, 2007, the newly-composed defense team must include one lead counsel, two co-counsel, and one senior investigator. The Acting Registrar expressed that he “shares the [Special Court’s] concerns” that Mr. Taylor recieve effective representation and that the trial proceed in a timely manner.
The Acting Registrar described a financial package that will enable the Special Court to meet both these goals. Von Hebel stated that he would provide one additional legal assistant for the Taylor defense team for the duration of the trial, as well as two additional legal assistants for the first three months of the trial, to allow legal counsel to familiarize themselves as quickly as possible with the case. Further, the Acting Registrar increased the overall funds allocated to Taylor’s defense team to 70,000 USD per month. The budget for Taylor’s defense team is now nearly three times the budget for most defense teams of the Special Court and two times the budget for most defense teams of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
Von Hebel stated that this increased budget does not include either the additional funds allocated for the senior investigator or the office space that the Registry will provide for the defense team. With these allocations included, the budget for Taylor’s defense team amounts to approximately 100,000 USD per month. The Acting Registrar concluded by noting that the Principal Defender’s Office has been activitely consulting with many attorneys all over the world to identify lead counsel for Taylor’s defense team. The Acting Registrar stated that he is confident that a defense team will be assembled before the trial resumes in August.
Stephen J. Rapp, Prosecutor of the Special Court, was also present at the hearing. Rapp supported the Acting Registrar’s increased budget for the Taylor defense team and stated, “It is important that justice be done and be seen to be done.” Because the Prosecution expected its first witnesses to testify beginning July 2, 2007, it released the names of the witnesses 45 days before that date, as required by law. The Prosecutor emphasized that Taylor needs adequate representation by August 20, 2007, not only because he has been detained for more than a year, but also because the Prosecution’s witnesses “are in danger” as a result of the release of their names.
During the hearing, Rapp indicated that although he “did not believe Mr. Taylor is indigent,” the Office of the Prosecutor did not want to “hold up” the trial by litigating this point. Rapp stated that if substantial assets belonging to Taylor are later found, this money will be seized and used to fund his defense team. Both Rapp and von Hebel stated that “it is with the judges to control the trial” and expressed the belief that the judges would not allow either the prosecution or the defense to further delay the trial without good cause.