Charles Taylor today refused to attend his trial in protest of security measures by Dutch security personnel responsible for taking him from his detention facility to the courtroom in The Hague.
When the Special Court for Sierra Leone resumed this morning, Mr. Taylor was conspiciously absent. The former Liberian president’s defense counsel, Morris Anyah, explained to the judges that Dutch security personel had handcuffed Mr. Taylor and kept him waiting in a vehicle for 15 minutes. This irritated Mr. Taylor and he refused to go to court today. Mr. Anyah called this action by the Dutch security personnel unnecessary and disrespectful.
Explaining to the judges what transpired between Mr. Taylor and the Dutch security personnel, Mr. Anyah said that “he was handcuffed, he was placed in a vehicle, and this is where the problem arose. He was left in that vehicle, for in his estimation, 10 to 15 minutes while the detention center personnel went to transport or bring another detainee from upstairs to another waiting vehicle to be transported to the same court house.”
“What we submit, objectively speaking, is unnecessary and is disrepectful, is to have the accused sit in a van waiting for several minutes while he is handcuffed,” Mr. Anyah added.
When the court adjourned and resumed in the afternoon, the judges informed the parties that they had done some investigation into what transpired between Mr. Taylor and the Dutch security personnel.
Presiding judge, Justice Julia Sebutinde, said that the actions of the Dutch security personnel were not disrepectful to Mr. Taylor as he was represented by his defense counsel. The learned judge said that Mr. Taylor had only been made to wait for those minutes because the Dutch security personnel wanted to transport him to the court alongside the other detainees.
“Now in our view, unanimously, we do not think that what happened this morning — whereby the authorities requested Mr. Taylor to wait for some 15 minutes, and I don’t know whether he actually waited for 15 minutes or less — that that was necessarily an unreasonable request, given the circumstance that there was that one team ready to bring a number of accused persons, ” Justice Sebutinde said.
“Secondly, it is common knowledge that Mr. Taylor is not the only accused person standing trial in the past few months. And that these various accused persons have been transported in similar manner from the same detention center together, perhaps in convoy in the same way. Of course I — we — would expect Mr. Taylor to respect the conditions of the detention center and the transportation regimes,” the presiding judge added.
As the judges ordered that the trial would continue in Mr. Taylor’s absence, the ninth defense witness, Liberian national and former Brigade Commander for Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group, Martin Flomo George, concluded his testimony. He reiterated that Mr. Taylor did not provide support for RUF rebels in Sierra Leone as alleged by prosecutors.
Befoore court adjourned today, Mr. Taylor’s tenth defense witness, a Liberian national and former member of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) during Mr. Taylor’s presidency, Karnah Mineh, took the witness’s stand.
Mr. Mineh’s direct-examination will continue tomorrow.