RAPAPORT… Judges will deliver their verdict in the war crimes trial of former Liberia President Charles Taylor on Thursday, the Special Court for Sierra Leone has announced.
Taylor is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for backing rebels who were responsible for committing atrocities during a civil war in Sierra Leone. He denies the charges and he has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
The trial opened on June 4, 2007 in The Hague and was delayed immediately after the prosecution’s opening statement when Taylor dismissed his defense team and requested new representation. Witness testimony began on January 7, 2008 and ended on November 12, 2010. Closing arguments in the case took place in February and March of 2011.
Prosecutors alleged that during Taylor’s term as Liberia’s president
between 1997 and 2003, he “created, armed, supported and controlled”
rebel groups in Sierra Leone in exchange for diamonds delivered to him.
During the trial, the court heard live testimony from 94 prosecution witnesses and received written statements from four additional witnesses. Model Naomi Campbell testified in the trial and confirmed she was given a rough diamond gift from Taylor in South Africa in 1997 but she was unsure of its origin. The defense presented 21 witnesses including Taylor himself.
Special Court Registrar Binta Mansaray explained that it has taken a long time to deliver judgment due largely to the complexity of the case. She noted that judges had to read more than 50,000 pages of witness testimony and examine 1,520 exhibits given as evidence. She said the time frame was consistent with similar high-profile cases at other international tribunals. Mansaray added that the judgment is the last trial that stems from Sierra Leone’s 10 year civil war and will be the last major trial to be held at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Both the defense and the prosecution have the right to appeal the verdict, the court explained. If Taylor is acquitted on all charges, the appeals process will begin right away. If he is found guilty on any of the 11 counts, the court will schedule sentencing proceedings.
The judgment will be delivered at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 26, 2012 with a live video streaming of the verdict on the court’s website.