The long awaited verdict to determine the guilt or innocence of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor will be delivered at 11:00 AM on April 26, 2012, Special Court for Sierra Leone judges said today in a scheduling order issued in The Hague.
Mr. Taylor, on trial for allegedly providing support to Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in their “reign of terror” during Sierra Leone’s 11 year conflict will know on April 26 whether he is guilty or innocent of the charges against him. He faces an 11 count-indictment of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone from November 1996 to January 2002. Prosecutors say that in addition to providing arms and ammunition to Sierra Leonean rebels in exchange for diamonds, he was also in a control of the rebel leadership in Sierra Leone and that in said position, he knew or had reason to know that the rebels were committing atrocities in Sierra Leone but failed to prevent the commission of these crimes, or that he did not punish the perpetrators who allegedly were under his command and control. Mr. Taylor has maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
The former Liberian president’s trial started in June 2007 with the delivery of the Prosecution’s opening statement. Witness testimony commenced in January 2008 and the evidence phase of the case was concluded in March 2011 after both prosecution and defense lawyers led a total of 115 live witnesses. The judges have spent the past year reviewing the evidence of the parties and preparing for the delivery of their final judgment. That final judgment will now be delivered on April 26.
If Mr. Taylor is acquitted or convicted, there is a likelihood that either or both defense and prosecution will appeal the decision of the Trial Chamber. The appeals will be determined by a total of five judges. If the verdict in this case is one of conviction, then the judges will schedule a sentencing hearing to determine the length of jail term that Taylor will serve. If this is the case, Taylor will serve his jail sentence in a British cell. If the decision is one of acquittal, then barring any appeals, Taylor will be a free man.
The decision on April 26 will be read in open court by the Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber, Justice Richard Lussick.