Special Court for Sierra Leone judges today ordered prosecutors to disclose to the defense all new documents that they intend to use in the cross-examination of former Liberian president Charles Taylor who is responding to charges that he was involved in a joint criminal enterprise with rebel forces who waged an 11-years rebel war in Sierra Leone.
In delivering the Chamber’s ruling, presiding judge Justice Richard Lussick said that the prosecution’s “piecemeal disclosure of individual documents” was unacceptable.
“This cannot be allowed to continue and the Chamber needs to set out a disclosure regime,” Justice Lussick said.
Today’s order came in the wake of Monday’s decision by the judges in response to prosecution’s request to use “new evidence” in the form of documents to impeach Mr. Taylor’s credibility as a witness in his own defense. In the decision, the judges ordered that documents which are meant to impeach the credibility of Mr. Taylor can be used by the prosecution without the need to disclose the documents to the defense. These documents will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, the judges ordered. The judges further ordered that all documents which have probative value to the guilt of the accused must be disclosed to the defense before they could be used by the prosecution in cross-examining Mr. Taylor.
When cross-examination resumed this morning, Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel objected to the use of a bundle of bank documents which prosecutors sought to cross-examine Mr. Taylor on in order to establish that Mr. Taylor was not truthful in his direct-examination about various bank accounts which he is alleged to have had before his detention by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel said the team had not been given sufficient time to study the bank documents. Mr. Taylor’s defense asked to be given until Monday to study the documents. The judges granted the defense application.
Lead prosecutor Ms. Brenda Hollis, addressing the judges, agreed that to avoid further misunderstanding of the judges’ order, all documents, whether intended for use to impeach Mr. Taylor’s credibility or to point at Mr. Taylor’s guilt will be disclosed to the defense.
Addressing all the parties, Justice Lussick made the following orders:
“1. All such documents should be disclosed to the defense by close of business day on Tuesday, and
2. Prosecution should give 24 hours notice to the defense of documents it intends to use for cross-examination on a particular day.”
Mr. Taylor is on trial for his alleged role in supporting RUF rebels who waged an 11-years rebel war in Sierra Leone. Crimes committed by the rebels ranged from amputation of civilian limbs, to rape, recruitment of child soldiers and murder. Mr. Taylor is accused of involvement in a joint criminal enterprise with the RUF rebels. He has denied all the allegations against him.
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination continues on Monday.