International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Judges Reject Taylor’s Request to Reopen Case

Judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague have rejected a request by former Liberian President Charles Taylor to reopen his defense case.

On February 9, the judges unanimously ruled that the Taylor defense “has failed to establish any justification for the re-opening of its case.”

Taylor’s defense team filed a motion on January 31, 2012 to reopen its case in order to seek the admission of a December 2011 report of a UN Panel of Experts on Liberia. The UN Experts report discusses the participation of Liberian mercenaries in the conflict in neighboring Ivory Coast and this, defense lawyers say, does not lay blame on the current Liberian government as being involved or complicit in the movement of fighters from … Continue Reading

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Charles Taylor’s Lawyers Apply to Reopen Defense Case

Charles Taylor’s defense lawyers have made a request for judges to allow the former Liberian president to reopen his defense, almost one year after arguments in the case were concluded.

The motion, filed on January 31, 2012, requests that the defense be allowed to “re-open its case in order to seek admission of Panel of Experts Report on Liberia.”

The motion relates to a December 7, 2011 Panel of Experts Report on Liberia that discusses the participation of Liberian mercenaries in the conflict in neighboring Ivory Coast. Taylor’s defense lawyers seek to submit in evidence Section III of the report titled “Liberian Mercenaries and Ivorian Militia.” This section, defense lawyers argue “describes the continuing phenomenon and underlying causes of mercenary activities in West Africa.”

According … Continue Reading

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As Newly Elected Presiding Judge, Justice Richard Lussick Could Deliver Final Judgment in Taylor Trial

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 … Continue Reading

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Special Court for Sierra Leone To Hold Contempt Proceedings

Special Court for Sierra Leone judges have issued orders for two seperate contempt proceedings to be held in respect of allegations that several individuals have attempted to contact prosecution witnesses with bribes for them to recant their evidence against accused or convicted persons.

The first contempt proceedings relate to allegations that persons acting on behalf of the defense for Charles Taylor attempted to bribe several prosecution witnesses, including those with protective measures for them to recant their evidence against the former Liberian president who is on trial for allegedly controlling and providing support to rebel forces in Sierra Leone. Prosecutors say that Mr. Taylor is responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed … Continue Reading

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Taylor Trial Concludes; Judges Begin Deliberations

Today marked the historic end of the trial against Charles Taylor. After three-and-a-half years of trial, the Prosecution and Defense both addressed Trial Chamber II for the final time. The parties referred to the passion, intensity, and emotions that became hallmarks of this trial, but thanked everyone involved for their hard work and dedication over the years.

The judges have now received all of the evidence tendered by the parties—amounting to testimony from 115 witnesses and 1097 exhibits. Having heard all of the parties’ assertions and arguments about whether this evidence indicates Taylor’s guilt or innocence, the judges will retire to deliberate and come to a final judgment on whether Charles Taylor is guilty of eleven counts of war crimes, crimes … Continue Reading

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Defense Concludes Closing Arguments, Attacks Credibility of Prosecution Witnesses

Today, the Defense for Charles Taylor concluded its closing arguments. Taylor is charged with eleven counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international law. He denies all of the charges against him and his legal team has presented a vigorous case in his defense. Yesterday and today, the court heard from the Defense about the most important aspects of that case. 

Yesterday, Lead Defense Counsel Courtenay Griffiths discussed the strength of the documentary evidence, which he claims exonerates Taylor. 

Today, Defense Counsel Terry Munyard submitted arguments to the judges of Trial Chamber II about the credibility of Prosecution witnesses.

Tomorrow, the Prosecution and Defense will have the opportunity to counter the opposing party’s oral arguments. This should mark … Continue Reading

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Documentary Evidence Proves Taylor is Innocent, Defense Claims in Closing Arguments

After nearly three-and-a-half years, Trial Chamber II at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has heard evidence from the Prosecution and Defense about whether Taylor bears the greatest responsibility for the crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s eleven year conflict. After much anticipation, the Defense finally presented its closing arguments today, marking the beginning of the end of the trial of Charles Taylor.

Closing arguments allow the parties to highlight the most important aspects of their cases to the judges. A month ago, the Prosecution presented its closing arguments. Today, Taylor’s Defense team presented its closing arguments. The closing arguments will continue for two hours tomorrow morning, and on Friday the parties have the opportunity to respond to the arguments raised … Continue Reading

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Taylor Defense To Make Closing Arguments On Wednesday

Charles Taylor’s defense team will finally have the chance to make their closing argument on Wednesday this week, bringing an end to an almost one month impasse that plagued the former Liberian president’s trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague.

The schedule for the defense to make their closing argument was made this afternoon at a status conference convened by the Trial Chamber.  Last week, Appeals Chamber judges of the Special Court for Sierra Leone ordered that the defense be allowed to submit a final trial brief and an expeditious date be set for the defense to make their closing argument.

The Trial Chamber had earlier rejected the defense final brief on the grounds that it had been … Continue Reading

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Appeals Chamber Directs Trial Chamber To Accept Defense Final Brief and Schedules Defense Closing Argument

Today, Appeals Chamber judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone issued a decision granting an appeal by Charles Taylor’s defense team.  The Appeals Chamber judges reversed the decision of the Trial Chamber to reject the defense final brief and also ordered the Trial Chamber to schedule a date and time for Mr. Taylor’s defense to make their closing argument.

Mr. Taylor’s trial, which has seen dramatic scenarios unfold recently, was supposed to have been completed in early February after closing arguments by all parties. However, the closing arguments did not take place as Mr. Taylor’s defense lawyers made a boycott after the Trial Chamber judges rejected the defense final brief on the grounds that it had been filed 20 days after the due … Continue Reading

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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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