Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The SCSL and the Taylor Judgment

Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Hague time, Trial Chamber II of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) will release its judgment in the case of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia. This event will also be streamed live, and can be viewed online (see instructions here). IntLawGrrls will be publishing a series of posts on the Taylor judgment.
Taylor was charged with 11 counts alleging responsibility for crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by rebel forces in Sierra Leone during the country’s civil war. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Taylor’s trial opened on June 4, 2007, in The Hague, but was adjourned immediately after the Prosecution’s opening statement when Mr. Taylor dismissed his defence team and requested new representation. He subsequently secured new defence counsel and witness testimony commenced on January 7, 2008. Closing arguments took place in February and March 2011.
The prosecution presented 94 witnesses in person, and written statements from four additional witnesses. The defence presented 21 witnesses, including Taylor himself. The trial judges have considered 50,000 pages of witness testimony and 1,520 exhibits.
 If Taylor is acquitted on all charges, the appeals process will begin immediately. If he is found guilty on any of the 11 counts, the Trial Chamber will schedule sentencing proceedings. See this SCSL press release for more details.
Given the impending release of the Taylor judgment, it is a good time to review developments at the SCSL since our last SCSL-related post:
► In December 2011, the Sierra Leonean Parliament passed the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone Agreement Act 2011, to ratify the agreement between the UN and the Government of Sierra Leone on the establishment of a Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone. 
► At the end of 2011, as a result of the intense difficulties in securing adequate voluntary state contributions to cover its budget, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to a subvention of over $9 million USD to cover the SCSL's 2012 budget. This is meant to cover operations of the Court to the close of any Taylor appeals process.
►On January 31, Taylor’s defence team filed a motion to request that his case be re-opened. The defence team wished to argue that the December 7, 2011 Panel of Experts Report on Liberia showed that Liberian fighters could easily cross the Cote d’Ivoire border for their own gains, and that this demonstrates that Liberian fighters could do the same during the Sierra Leonean conflict. This request was denied on February 9. 
►On February 27, in preparation for expected appeals in the Taylor case, Justice Philip Waki of Kenya was sworn in as an alternate judge of the SCSL’s Appeals Chamber. 
►In early March, Taylor’s defence team requested that the April 26 date for the release of the judgment be changed, as Taylor’s lead counsel had prior engagements on that date and because Sierra Leone celebrates its 51st independence anniversary on April 27. This request was unanimously dismissed by Trial Chamber II.
►On March 26, the United Kingdom announced additional funding for the SCSL in the amount of £600,000, bringing the UK’s total contribution to the SCSL to £27.6 million since 2002. 
►At present, the SCSL continues to prepare for its transitionto the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone. It is also reducing staff, liquidating its assets and preparing for handover of the physical site in Freetown. The Residual Special Court is expected to have a budget of $1.6 million in its first year, all of which is to be covered by voluntary contributions. 

(1st of several posts on the Charles Taylor judgment, part of IntLawGrrls' Sierra Leone accountability series)

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