(Rapaport…July 24, 2006) Former Liberia President Charles Taylor pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, during his first appearance at The Hague international court on July 21.
Taylor’s attorney, Karim Asad Ahmed Khan, told the court that he was not likely to be prepared for the trial before 2007 and complained about the conditions of Taylor’s detention. Taylor was quiet during the 50 minute hearing. His attorney called the food Taylor was being served ‘Eurocentric’ and said the former warlord was frequently locked up in his cell for 16 hours a day.
Taylor is facing 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the war in Sierra Leone where diamonds were used to purchase arms for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels, notorious in Sierra Leone for hacking off the limbs of their victims. Taylor went into exile in Nigeria in 2003 and was transferred to the Special Court in Sierre Leone after Liberia’s new president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, requested his extradition.
In June 2006, the Netherlands agreed to host the trial, after the United Nations backed court in Sierra Leone expressed concern that holding the trial in West Africa could potentially destabilize the entire region.