The trial against former Liberian President Charles Taylor was set to resume Monday in The Hague, however Taylor once again refused to attend. When opening statements began on June 4, Taylor refused to appear in court, instead sending a letter to the judge calling the court “a charade that does injustice to the people of Sierra Leone.” Taylor claimed he could not receive a fair trial and fired his attorney, Karim Khan, stating he wished to represent himself. Following opening statements the trial was in recess until Monday, when witness testimony was scheduled to begin.
Monday brought neither new defense attorneys for Taylor, nor an appearance by the accused, and the trial was once again put on hold. Justice Julie Sebutinde issued a terse warning against “undue delay” but was nevertheless forced to continue the trial until July 3. The purpose of the delay is to appoint a new defense team to Taylor, who has claimed he will not appear in court until he is provided with enough resources to match those of the prosecution. He continues to assert that he will act as his own attorney unless he can be represented by a Queen’s Counsel (a high-level British lawyer).
The prosecution objected to the delay, stating that Taylor had intentionally tried to delay proceedings by waiting until the start of trial to fire his lawyer. However, Justice Sebutinde ruled that adequate resources had to be provided to the defense and that the court’s registry has not moved quickly enough to ensure they were in place.
Taylor faces 11 charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of international humanitarian law for acts which allegedly occurred during his involvement with the Sierra Leone civil war.
Last week the Sierra Leone Court issued its first verdicts, convicting three former Sierra Leonean military leaders on multiple counts of war crimes, including the first ever conviction by an international court for the use of child soldiers. The three men convicted were former leaders of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, a group of former military officers who overthrew Sierra Leone’s government in 1997 and then teamed up with rebels to control the country. Prosecutors allege the rebels were among those supported by Taylor.
For more information, please see:
AllAfrica – Liberia: Sebutinde Warns Taylor On Boycott – 26 June 2007
AllAfrica – Liberia: Defiant Taylor’s Request Granted – 26 June 2007
BBC – Liberia’s Taylor trial adjourned – 25 June 2007
CNN – Taylor Boycott Forces Delay – 25 June 2007