International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

New Surprises Bedevil the Charles Taylor Trial

Another week, another twist at the Charles Taylor trial.

Just ten days ago, the proceedings hit an unexpected impasse when Taylor’s lead defense counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, learned that his final brief—which had been delivered late—would not be accepted by the court. Griffiths declared that, absent the final brief, he did not see any further role in the case for himself or for his client. Then, in front of a host of international media, he walked out of the courtroom.

For his actions, the judges chose to subject Griffiths to a disciplinary hearing and set the date for Friday, February 25.

But then came the newest surprise—this time from the bench. As the parties gathered for the Griffiths hearing, there was a new notable … Continue Reading

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Charles Taylor’s Lawyer Now Needs a Lawyer Himself

For more than three years, the charismatic defense lawyer Courtenay Griffiths has stood in front of international judges, arguing that former Liberian president Charles Taylor is not responsible for the horrific rapes, murders, and mutilations committed during Sierra Leone’s 11 years civil conflict.

This week, Griffiths will walk back into the same courtroom, this time, though, not as a defense lawyer arguing on behalf of his high-profile client, but as a “defendant counsel.” Griffiths, himself, has become the subject of a disciplinary hearing before the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Griffiths is facing the possibility of sanctions after walking out of court on February 8, when the court had convened to hear closing arguments from both prosecution and defense lawyers in the … Continue Reading

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Déjà Vu at the Charles Taylor Trial

In an unexpected moment of symmetry last week, on Tuesday, February 8, the defense lawyer for former Liberian president Charles Taylor walked out of court. At a break, Taylor himself left the courtroom and did not return.

The gesture of dramatic defiance from the defense, the prosecution left to speak before an empty defendant’s box—you would be forgiven for feeling you’d seen this before.

Almost four years ago, in June 2007, just as the trial was getting underway, Taylor’s then lawyer, Karim Khan, disregarded a judges’ order and walked out of the court, telling the judges he had Taylor’s instructions to do so. He left then chief prosecutor, Stephen Rapp, to deliver his opening statement in the absence of Taylor and his … Continue Reading

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Lawyers Get Their Final Say at the Charles Taylor Trial

In tailored suits and with gold cufflinks matching his gold-rimmed glasses, Charles Taylor has spent much of the past three years sitting largely impassively in a courtroom in The Hague, occasionally writing notes to his lawyers, and listening as witnesses described tales of horror to a panel of judges. Prosecutors say the former Liberian president is responsible for the mayhem and crimes committed by rebels in his neighboring country, Sierra Leone.

The exception was the almost seven months when Taylor took the stand in his own defense, when he was animated, usually chatty and personable, at times flashing anger, as he told his side of the story. He and many of the witnesses who spoke in his defense tried to refute … Continue Reading

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With Anticipation, Sierra Leoneans Look Forward to Final Judgment in the Charles Taylor Trial

Mabinty Kargbo was just 15 years old when Sierra Leonean rebels cut off her hands and killed her parents in front of her during the country’s horrific 11 year war.  Now, she waits anxiously to hear whether the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, was behind the rebel crimes as his trial draws to a close in The Hague.   

“We all want to hear the judgment that the judges will issue, and we hope they execute Taylor, let him die just the way he caused the death of our people in this country. But even when Taylor dies, we will not forget what the rebels did to us. When I look at my hands, and when I wake up in the morning … Continue Reading

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Judgment in the Charles Taylor Trial: Final Chance to Determine Responsibility for the January 1999 Attack on Freetown

When Special Court for Sierra Leone Judges (SCSL) in The Hague delivers their final judgment in the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor sometime this year, it could be the final chance to determine responsibility for the January 1999 rebel attack on Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. Taylor is on trial for allegedly supporting Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in Sierra Leone, a rebel group which attacked the country in March 1991, a war that would last for eleven years. 

The January 1999 attack on Freetown occupies huge significance in the history of the conflict in Sierra Leone. For many, this event truly brought the world’s attention to an otherwise forgotten conflict. Pictures on televisions of babies whose arms were amputated … Continue Reading

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Charles Taylor: The View from Sierra Leone

As the glamor and intrigue continue today in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor—with a Hollywood actress and a supermodel’s former agent testifying in The Hague about diamonds and a diva—the view from Sierra Leone looks decidedly less chic.

Charred buildings lined the street going east out of Freetown, the country’s capital, with young men lingering on the roadside, despite the heavy rain.

“See those boys?” asked Desmond, my taxi driver and an evangelical pastor. “A lot of them were child soldiers. I have no pity for them.”

We were weaving through traffic on the same road that Sierra Leonean rebels had marched down eleven years ago, burning houses, looting, and terrorizing civilians as they launched an attack on the city … Continue Reading

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United States Court of Appeals Judges Uphold Charles Taylor Jr.’s (Chuckie Taylor) Convictions And 97 Years Jail Sentence

Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on Thursday July 15 2010 issued a decision affirming the conviction of Charles Taylor Jr., aka Chuckie Taylor, who was convicted in October 2008 by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida and sentenced to 97 years imprisonment for “committing numerous acts of torture and other atrocities in Liberia between 1999 and 2003,” while he served as head of the country’s “ Anti Terrorist Unit” (ATU) during the presidency of his father, Charles Taylor Sr.—who is himself presently being tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone sitting in The Hague for allegedly controlling and supporting rebel forces who fought and committed heinous crimes … Continue Reading

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Charles Taylor story on TV in US (with Naomi Campbell….)

Dear Readers,

I’m sure some of you saw the Nightline story last night which focussed on the allegations that Mr. Taylor’s men gave supermodel Naomi Campbell a rough cut blood diamond after a dinner hosted by former South African president, Nelson Mandela, in 1997.  It was basically much of the same territory as we saw covered in the courtroom —  except it contained interviews with Mia Farrow and Naomi Campbell.  While Ms. Farrow is adamant that Ms. Campbell told her about being given the diamond the following morning after the dinner, Ms. Campbell denied it in the ABC interview, got angry about the line of questioning, then stormed out of the interview (after hitting away the camera).  Despite the drama, the piece did … Continue Reading

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An Overview of Charles Taylor on the Witness Stand….

Dear Readers — please find below the latest report from our colleagues Jennifer Easterday and Judy Mionki, the U.C. Berkeley monitors, who have provided us with an extensive overview of Charles Taylor’s time on the stand. I hope you enjoy it!  Best, Tracey  

1.        Introduction

This report provides an in-depth review of the cross-examination and subsequent re-examination of Charles Taylor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone case Prosecutor v. Charles Taylor. Taylor first took the stand in his own defense on July 14, 2009. He testified under direct-examination for thirteen weeks. During his subsequent cross-examination, the Prosecution had the opportunity to question Taylor on the content of his testimony, and attempt to damage his credibility as a witness. Cross-examination began … Continue Reading

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