International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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

219 Comments

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

39 Comments

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

33 Comments

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

53 Comments

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

72 Comments

Trial Chamber Not Properly Constituted, Disciplinary Hearings For Charles Taylor’s Lawyer Cannot Take Place

The disciplinary hearing for Charles Taylor’s lead defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths, which was scheduled to take place today, was adjourned as the Trial Chamber could not be properly constituted.

Griffiths was to be subject to a disciplinary hearing for walking out of the court on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 after he had made complaints about the rejection of the defense final trial brief by the judges. The judges said Griffiths had filed the final brief 20 days late. Griffiths responded he was awaiting decisions in several outstanding motions before the judges. After his walk-out, the judges asked for an apology from Griffiths, but the defense lawyer instead requested a disciplinary hearing, which was granted by the judges. The disciplinary hearing had been set for today, February … Continue Reading

80 Comments

Defense Lawyers To Appeal Decision To Reject Final Trial Brief

Defense lawyers for Charles Taylor will now have the chance to appeal the Trial Chamber’s decision to reject their final trial brief. The defense appeal will be lodged before a panel of five judges of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

The decision to allow defense lawyers to file an appeal came after their final trial brief was rejected by Trial Chamber judges because it was filed outside the specified time ordered by the judges.

On Monday, February 7, just one day before prosecution and defense lawyers were to make their final closing arguments, the Trial Chamber judges issued a decision in which they rejected the defense final trial brief because it had been filed 20 days after the January 14 deadline required for the submission … Continue Reading

43 Comments

Prosecutors Ask For Investigation; Say Defense Investigator Attempted To Bribe Prosecution Witnesses To Change Their Evidence

Prosecutors in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor have asked judges in The Hague to institute an “investigation into contempt” based on allegations that a defense investigator and other persons have attempted to bribe prosecution witnesses in order to have them recant their evidence before the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

In a motion filed on February 3, 2011, prosecutors allege that one Eric Koi Senessie, a former member of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) – the rebel group in Sierra Leone that Mr. Taylor is on trial for allegedly supporting, and Prince Taylor, an investigator for the Taylor defense team, made contacts with three prosecution witnesses. The three witnesses, Mohamed B. Kabbah (TFI-568), Aruna Gbonda (TFI-330), and a … Continue Reading

27 Comments

Judges Order Taylor’s Defense Lawyer To Appear In Court on Friday

The Special Court for Sierra Leone judges in The Hague yesterday issued an order for Charles Taylor’s defense lawyer to appear before them on Friday, February 11, 2011.

Mr. Taylor’s trial in The Hague has been a center of drama this week as the former Liberian president’s defense lawyer, Courtnay Griffiths, walked out of the courtroom on Tuesday, telling judges that it was not in his client’s best interest for him to take part in the closing arguments. On Monday, the judges had rejected the defense final trial brief because it had been filed 20 days late. The defense said they were waiting for the judges to deliver decisions on outstanding motions before they would conclude and file their final brief.

On Wednesday, defense … Continue Reading

5 Comments

Charles Taylor And His Defense Team Not in Court For Closing Argument

For a second day, Charles Taylor’s defense team refused to appear in court to take part in the closing arguments of the former Liberian president’s trial in The Hague.

The Court was scheduled to hear closing arguments from both prosecution and defense lawyers this week. When proceedings commenced yesterday to hear the closing arguments from the prosecution, defense lawyers refused to take part in the process because the judges had refused to accept the defense final closing brief. The judges had originally ordered that all closing briefs be filed by the parties on January 14 , 2011. While prosecutors filed their brief by the necessary date, defense lawyers refused to file because they wanted outstanding motions to be dealt with first … Continue Reading

72 Comments