At 2.30 p.m. Court resumed and Presiding Judge Doherty inquired with Lead Defense Counsel Griffiths after Taylor’s health. Griffiths informed the Court that various tests had been carried out, nothing identifiable was wrong with him. Taylor was anxious to return to Court but the medical staff wanted to keep him in the hospital for the day. Griffiths suggests to adjourn the Court until tomorrow morning. The Prosecution has no objection to the Defense’s request.
Subsequently, Presiding Judge Doherty adjourns the Court until tomorrow 9.30 when Prosecution Witness TF1-362 will take the stand. It has been announced that this Witness will testify in closed session, however it is possible that the Witness will waive this right and that he therefore will give testimony in open session.
A summary of today’s proceedings will be posted later today.
Africa’s test for international justice
By Olenka Frenkiel
Reporter, BBC 2’s This World
Charles Taylor’s trial for alleged war crimes at the Hague is a test for international justice. Will it bring accountability to the continent of Africa or will it be seen as a new colonialism in what some Africans regard as “a white man’s court”?
Charles Taylor has been on trial in the Hague since June 2007
“A small unit of boy soldiers brought another small boy, crying and screaming. They put his right arm on a log, took a machete, and amputated it at the wrist,” says the man in the witness box.
“The boy was shouting: ‘What have I done that you are doing this to me?’
“They took the left arm again and put it on the same log and sliced it off. He was still screaming and shouting. They took the left leg and put it on the same log and cut it off at the ankle.
“At last they took the right leg and put it on the same log and cut it off with the machete. They were swinging the boy. They threw him into a toilet pit. I was there. I saw it myself.”
Pastor Teh, a small man with broken teeth is describing his capture by RUF rebels during the war in Sierra Leone.
He speaks in Creole while, from a booth, an invisible voice translates.
He is one of hundreds of witnesses being flown to the Hague to testify in the Charles Taylor trial.
The defendant, quiet and dapper in a dark suit, sits in the dock day after day, taking notes.
The former president of Liberia is charged with war crimes, though not for what he did in his own country, which is another story.
No-one here claims that he carried out the atrocities in Sierra Leone himself. The prosecution’s case is that Charles Taylor armed the rebels in Sierra Leone to terrorise the population and win control of the country’s diamonds.
The fact that he did this from a distance does not, the prosecution argue, mitigate his crimes. It does, however, make them harder to prove.
The case, according to the court’s Chief Prosecutor, Stephen Rapp, rests on linkage.
“We have to show the connection to Taylor, that he knew the RUF was targeting civilians for murder, for mutilations, for rape, and sexual slavery. That they were recruiting children under 15 to commit horrible acts. If he knew that, and he nonetheless aided them, then he is guilty of the crime.”
A lot to prove
But Mr Taylor’s lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths QC, says backing rebels in a foreign country is not a war crime.
“Or else George Bush and Tony Blair would also be on trial. My case is he should not be on trial at all. He is being tried for his foreign policy. There is nothing to distinguish between what he has done and what other leaders in the West have done historically.
“Why start with an African? Why has it got to be a black man? Why not start with the Americans who have been misbehaving in other people’s countries for decades?”
If Taylor’s convicted, there will be an expectation of justice, that leaders will be held to account
Stephen Rapp, chief prosecutor
Moral equivalence – invoking Iraq or colonialism or Cold War dirty tricks – may feel like a weak defence but it carries weight in a world where international justice still has a lot to prove.
If Mr Taylor goes down, the prosecution argues, it will be an important signal to Africa’s leaders – not just a step towards the noble goals of “good governance” and “accountability” – but a genuine result for the injured civilians, the amputees, and their children, for potential future victims, those for whom the idea of international justice and “never again” was conceived.
But it is for Africa that there is most at stake in this trial and all those watching from the wings.
“If Taylor’s convicted, there will be an expectation of justice. That leaders will be held to account,” says Stephen Rapp.
But will it be transparent, fair, and just – not only in the eyes of the world but for the country from which he comes?
In Liberia, Charles Taylor still has supporters who see him as a pan-African hero maligned by the superpowers in a neo-colonialist masquerade of justice.
It is not justice but politics
Courtenay Griffiths, defence lawyer
He won a presidential election by a landslide in 1997 and many believe he could do it again.
In 2003, he stood down and took refuge in Nigeria, only to be handed over in handcuffs to the special court of Sierra Leone who flew him far away from his peers and countrymen to be tried in what some Africans regard as a “white man’s court”.
In The Hague there was some interest on the first day of his trial. But since the press moved on there have been weeks of unreported “closed sessions” where unnamed witnesses have given testimony in camera without press or public, or transcripts for the outside world to view.
Even his defence lawyer is forbidden from revealing the evidence which may convict his client for war crimes, evidence which may well send him to live out his days in a British jail.
“It is not justice,” says Mr Griffiths. “But politics”.
“If he is convicted then I think it is a sad day for Africa.
“It is meant to set a precedent that in future the West will say to African leaders they don’t like, such as Robert Mugabe, ‘This is what is going to happen to you if you step out of line.’
“And if you don’t do as you are told, as leader of a vassal third-world state like Liberia, we will arrest you, transport you to the Hague, and put you on trial in the ICC.”
Mr Taylor may be a very bad man indeed, but Mr Griffiths is entitled to use any weakness he can find in the prosecution case. And when the good guys lose their moral authority it spoils it for everyone, except perhaps Mr Taylor.
International justice can only work if it is seen to be blind and fair, with each man equal under the law.
Would we accept the terms of this trial if it were Mr Rumsfeld, Mr Bush, or Mr Blair in the dock?
This World: Diamonds and Justice will be broadcast on Tuesday 26 February 2008 at 1900 GMT on BBC Two.
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