On January 18, Justice Richard Lussick from the Republic of Samoa was elected as the Presiding Judge of Trial Chamber II, which is the chamber of judges that has heard evidence in the case of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Mr. Taylor has been on trial for his alleged involvement in the bloody conflict in Sierra Leone that lasted from 1991 to 2002. As Presiding Judge for a period of one year (starting January 2012), it means that the final judgment in the Taylor trial could be delivered by Justice Lussick.
Trial Chamber judges have spent the past several months reviewing the evidence submitted by both prosecutors and defense lawyers for Mr. Taylor. When the evidence phase of the case was concluded in early 2011, it was anticipated that the final judgment would be delivered in September 2011. However, this was not the case. It was later reported that the judgment will be delivered in early 2012. Reports indicate that the judges have been hard at work to complete their findings and deliver judgment, including by not taking any vacation over the December holidays.
In 2011, Justice Teresa Doherty served as Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber. Rule 27 of the Special Court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence provides that a Presiding Judge of the Chamber shall be elected for a renewable term of one year, but the judges themselves have made it their practice of rotating the position of Presiding Judge on a yearly basis. All three judges have served as Presiding Judge during the conduct of the Taylor trial, which started in 2007 in The Hague. At the start of proceedings in 2007, Ugandan Judge Julia Sebutinde served as Presiding Judge of the Chamber. In late 2011, Judge Sebutinde was elected by the United Nations as a judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), replacing Sierra Leonean judge Abdul G. Koroma. Justice Sebutinde will commence work in her new position as Judge of the ICJ before the final judgment in the Taylor trial is delivered.