You may be interested in a flurry of articles about the trial for former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, which have emerged in the past week as the cross-examination of Mr. Taylor by prosecutors has restarted.
A bevy of press articles emerged in the last 24 hours in relation to the document prosecutors tried to introduce yesterday in court which was from actress Mia Farrow alleging that Mr. Taylor gave supermodel Naomi Campbell a blood diamond at a dinner in South Africa in 1997. The judges rejected the use of the document, deciding it was not in the interests of justice to allow its introduction, nor were they convinced that it would not violate Mr. Taylor’s fair trial rights. (You can read Alpha’s coverage of the issue here: http://www.charlestaylortrial.org/2010/01/15/judges-order-that-prosecutors-cannot-use-new-documents-alledging-that-charles-taylor-gave-sierra-leones-blood-diamonds-to-supermodel-naomi-campbell/).
The press reports on this issue were abundant, with varying levels of sensational headlines and unfortunately none that I have seen discussed the issue and judges’ decision on the use of Mia Farrow’s document, which was an important issue in yesterday’s proceedings (although ABC News did note Courtenay Griffiths’ objection, but not the judges’ response) — here are a few for those interested, keeping in mind that these press reports do not tell the whole story of what happened in the courtroom yesterday:
- AFP’s ” Liberia’s Taylor ‘gave Naomi Campbell a blood diamond'” can be found here: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iqgtCcIuDKUxtj90-lYmobtNNDfw
- ABC News’ “Did Naomi Campbell Get a ‘Blood Diamond’ from a Corrupt African Dictator?” can be found here: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/naomi-campbells-blood-diamond/story?id=9561083&page=1
- Earth Times’ “Former Liberian president Taylor answers blood diamond allegations” can be found here: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/303921,former-liberian-president-taylor-answers-blood-diamond-allegations.html
Meanwhile, one of our readers, Aki, kindly both alerted me to, and sent me copies of, two articles in the New African magazine December 2009 issue (unfortunately not available online unless you have a subscription) – but for those of you following the trial and interested in the Special Court, it may be worth picking up a copy if you see one:
The first “The Taylor Affair” by Osei Boateng is basically an overview of Mr. Taylor’s defense to date. Boateng traverses a range of topics in his four-page article, including an overview of the defense use of documents during Mr. Taylor’s testimony; the number of witnesses; the changes to the original indictment; the issue of the United States and how its role has been variously described in this trial; Mr. Taylor’s answer to the charges with his counter-narrative (that he is a peacemaker not a war-monger); along with highlights of his testimony to date (Mr. Taylor’s testimony on Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s alleged role in creating the rebel group National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), his time in Libya and his NPFL group’s and his relationship with Ali Kabbah, the leader of a group called the Sierra Leonean Pan-African Revolutionary Movement, while training outside of Tripoli, and not with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels – the group Mr. Taylor is now alleged to have both helped and controlled as they committed atrocities during the Sierra Leone war).
The second article is a fairly critical analysis of the Special Court for Sierra Leone written by a Sierra Leonean journalist, Lansana Gberie, who has also written a book on the RUF. In this article, “The Redundant Court For Sierra Leone,” Mr. Gberie questions the utility of the continuing operations of the Special Court in Freetown after all its cases have finished (bar the Taylor trial in The Hague) and its prisoners have all been transferred to Rwanda where they are serving their sentences. Reporting from Kailahun in eastern Sierra Leone – the place he describes as where the Sierra Leonean war began after the RUF overran the district and occupied the town – when the final convictions of the RUF leaders on trial at the Special Court were announced, he describes an absence of discussion or reaction in the town. He says the local radio did not report the convictions, nor did anyone in the town mention the trial while he was there. This lack of “evident interest” in Kailahun was, he surmised, was probably because “the entire exercise in international justice, which has now cost nearly $300m and taken over six years, is probably ineffective.” He ends with former prosecutor Stephen Rapp’s reflections in Time magazine, where Mr. Rapp ponders developing a court in the national system in Sierra Leone if he had the opportunity to do it all over again.
On a different topic, the Sierra Leonean “Awoko” newspaper conducted an interview with the Special Court’s Acting Prosecutor, Joseph Kamara, in which he rejects the notion that the Taylor trial is a political one and “is being manipulated by the West especially America”; discussed the evidence of Mr. Taylor’s covert account; and talked also about the British government’s agreement to reserve a cell for Mr. Taylor if he is convicted at the end of the trial. You can find the story here: http://awoko.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=7483&cntnt01returnid=15