July 3, 2007
“I’ve Been Informed the Accused is Here”
Following a joint filing by the Principal Defender’s Office and the Prosecution last week to delay the trial, the Court held a short hearing today to explain its reasons for postponing the proceedings until August 20, 2007, and to address various procedural and scheduling matters. In a surprise development, Taylor’s Duty Counsel Charles Jalloh opened the hearing by noting that Taylor would be attending but was delayed, and some 20 minutes later Presiding Judge Sebutinde paused the proceedings to note “I’ve been informed the accused is here.” Taylor entered the courtroom in a dark blue suit with a bright yellow tie, nodded to the judges and sat, flanked by two uniformed guards. After being informed that the delay was due to the fact that the route from Taylor’s detention facilities had to be adjusted for security reasons, Judge Sebutinde stated that “the reason is noted but it is not satisfactory.” She therefore directed the Registry to communicate with security personnel to “ensure that court time is not wasted because we are waiting for someone to transport Mr. Taylor to court.”
Trial Postponed Until August 20
Initially, the Court reiterated its June 25 ruling, including its order that the Acting Registrar facilitate the Principal Defender’s efforts to assemble a defense team by July 31 to include one lead counsel, two co-counsel, and one senior investigator.
The Court then provided several reasons for its postponement of the trial. First, it concluded that, “after careful reflection,” good cause had been shown by both the Principal Defender’s Office and the Prosecution to justify a delay. To compel Duty Counsel to represent Taylor at trial for one week (July 3 – July 11 under its June 25 order) would in the Court’s words amount to a violation of Taylor’s fair trial rights as Jalloh would be unable to conduct effective cross-examination or effectively challenge the Prosecution’s evidence. Judge Sebutinde again noted the Registry’s failure to address issues related to representation that were raised as early as March 2007 and stated that Taylor “should not be penalized for the laxity of the Registry.” While the Court “generally frowns on delay,” it was mindful of its overriding obligation to conduct a fair trial and therefore granted the joint motion to postpone the presentation of the Prosecution’s case.
Other Issues Addressed by the Court
The Court also addressed the Principal Defender’s application for suspension of time limits for its pleadings and pending motions in light of the reconstitution of the trial team. Finding this request reasonable, the Court agreed to extend (rather than to suspend) time limits for each pleading and motion until the issues surrounding representation are resolved. In addition, the Court provided a revised schedule of times that it would sit and indicated when filings would be permitted in light of ICC and Special Court holidays.
Taylor’s delayed entrance caused a break in the proceedings for 20 minutes while he consulted with Jalloh to discuss his plea to the amended indictment. There were two amendments at issue. Amendments to Count 11 involved only minor changes to the particulars, and the Court determined this would not affect Taylor’s plea as it did not contain a new charge. Count 5 “sexual slavery and any other form of sexual violence,” a crime against humanity, was amended to remove the reference to “any other form of sexual violence” (which the Prosecution previously had indicated in a May pre-trial conference would be done to avoid issues of duplicity) and therefore required a new plea from Taylor. He rose and stated in a low tone: “I plead not guilty your honor.”
The Court then adjourned the proceedings until Monday, August 20.