As Charles Taylor faced his second day of cross-examination, his defense counsel objected to prosecution attempts to introduce “fresh evidence” after its case was closed, calling it a trial by “ambush.” Meanwhile, Mr. Taylor tried to distance himself from the types of acts committed during Sierra Leone’s brutal conflict – such as fighters forcing a mother to laugh while they buried her child — saying that he prevented such acts during Liberia’s civil strife.
In a move that led to the proceedings being adjourned early today, lead prosecution counsel, Ms. Brenda Hollis, sought to ask the accused former president questions about certain provisions in the Lome Peace Accord – a peace agreement signed between the Sierra Leonean government and the country’s main rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in the Togolese capital, Lome, in 1999. In an attempt to present a copy of the Lome agreement to Mr. Taylor to discuss specific provisions that benefitted the RUF, Ms Hollis today aimed to establish Mr. Taylor’s influence during the peace process. However, Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, objected. He argued it was “new evidence” which was not submitted to the court during the prosecution’s own case, not used during Mr. Taylor’s direct examination. The defense called it a trial by “ambush” for the prosecution to present “fresh evidence” after it had already closed its case.
Presiding judge, Justice Richard Lussick, said that the interests of justice require consideration of all evidence against the accused, but it was necessary to “balance such need for justice with the fair trial rights of the accused.” The judges ruled that Ms. Hollis could not introduce new evidence in the form of documents which had not been presented as part of the prosecution’s case and were not used by the defense in direct-examination of the accused. Instead, the Prosecution was urged to make a formal written application to allow the defense opportunity to respond about the inclusion of the Lome Accord. After that, the judges could rule on whether new documents could be introduced as part of the prosecution’s cross-examination of the accused.
The judges also rejected Ms. Hollis’s request to ask “good faith basis questions” which “will be premised on the documents” but without using the documents themselves. Mr. Griffiths called it “unacceptable.”
“It is a back door way of getting into the tribunal,” he said.
“You cannot make use of any of these documents until a formal motion is submitted,” Justice Lussick ordered.
Ms. Hollis at this stage asked the court to give the prosecution more time to “consider organizing our presentation” while work is being done on the formal motion for the presentation of the documents. The judges ordered that the court will adjourn for the day to give time to the prosecution to re-organize their presentation and continue the cross-examination of the accused tomorrow.
Earlier in the morning, Ms. Hollis sought to cover a few areas relating to Mr. Taylor’s direct-examination. Ms. Hollis referenced Mr. Taylor’s July 20, 2009 definition of “acts of terrorism” when he said that “for me, if you went to an innocent family and held them up at gun point and there are women and children there, that is an act of terrorism.”
Ms. Hollis asked Mr. Taylor whether he agrees that certain acts like sexual violence, rape, murder, attacking civilians in a village and burning their houses, or forcing a mother to laugh while her child is being buried, will constitute acts of terrorism. Mr. Taylor responded that while some of these acts will amount to acts of terrorism, many of them could be looked at as individual crimes. The accused former Liberian president did concede that if “fighters forced a mother to laugh while they buried her child,” that will lead to “fear and anguish.”
When Ms. Hollis pushed Mr. Taylor that these acts will individually cause fear in victims, Mr. Taylor explained that he cannot determine how people will respond under certain circumstances.
“You are asking me to hypothetically tell how someone will respond under circumstances? People respond differently. I can say anguish but I can’t say fear. I am not a psychiatrist. People respond differently under certain circumstances,” Mr. Taylor said.
Mr. Taylor rejected suggestions from Ms. Hollis that he was playing games in his response to questions.
“I am not before this court playing games with my life. I reject the notion of playing games,” he said.
“That is why in my civil war, we did not have operations like that. Let me make it clear, I did not condone them and that is why I prevented them in Liberia,” Mr. Taylor asserted.
Mr. Taylor admitted providing support to RUF rebels in 1991-1992 but rejected notions that such support continued after 1992. The former president also agreed that RUF commander Sam Bockarie visited Liberia in September and October 1998, during which he gave the RUF commander a satellite phone. He agreed that Mr. Bockarie was on a United Nations travel ban list at this time.
Mr. Taylor is responding to charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone from November 30, 1996. The prosecution alleges that Mr. Taylor was involved in a joint criminal enterprise with RUF rebels who fought an 11-year war in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has denied the allegations against him.
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination continues tomorrow.