The transcripts of the trial of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia. More…

  • [Open session]

  • [Status Conference]

  • [The accused present]

  • [Upon commencing at 11.03 a.m.]

  • The Special Court is sitting for a Status Conference pursuant to Rule 65 bis in the case of the Prosecutor versus Charles Dankpannah Ghankay Taylor.

  • Good morning. I'll start by taking the appearances from the Prosecution and then the Defence. Thanks.

  • Good morning, Madam President, your Honours. Brenda J Hollis, Nicholas Koumjian, Leigh Lawrie, and Maja Dimitrova appear today for the Prosecution.

  • Thank you, Ms Hollis.

  • Good morning, your Honour, I appear today with my learned friends Mr Munyard, Mr Cayley, and Mr Anyah.

  • Your Honours, Charles Jalloh, Legal Officer and Duty Counsel for the Office of the Principal Defender. Thank you.

  • Thank you. This Status Conference basically has two agenda items, the first being an update from the parties on your various preparations for the trial in January.

    Does the Prosecution have anything to say? Are things progressing well with your side?

  • Yes, your Honour, we are progressing well. We will be prepared to provide, before the recess, the required copies of exhibits and list of witnesses for the first two weeks when we comment in January; and depending upon the decisions that are made when we have a meeting regarding trial practices on the 28th of November, we will be prepared to provide whatever additional materials will be required as well. So we are progressing well.

  • Mr Griffiths, how is the Defence progressing?

  • Your Honour, to date the Defence preparation has been going well, subject to one minor matter which I ought to report to the Court, and it concerns aspects of disclosure. We're grateful to the Prosecution for having, since our appointment, assisted us in ensuring that we have all necessary documentation, and they have taken several steps in order to assist us in that way. We have, however, requested some of the material in electronic format, and the Prosecution have told us that they have some difficulty in providing us with certain disclosure in electronic format between the date the 4th of June of this year and the 25th of June [sic].

    We're somewhat perplexed at that reluctance on their part, given that they've provided material up until the 4th of June in electronic format and they've provided material since the 25th of September in the same format. So it seems rather illogical and inconsistent that they have taken that particular stance in relation to disclosure for that limited period.

    And of course, given that some of our team are not based in The Hague as yet, it would be so much more convenient if the Prosecution were to oblige us and provide us with that material in electronic format because it's so much easier to transport. And I don't know whether a kindly word from the Court may well oil the wheels of motion in this particular instance.

  • Mr Griffiths, sorry to ask you again. This is in relation to materials disclosed between which periods?

  • The 4th of June, 2007, and the 25th of September, 2007.

  • And you're saying that with regard to material disclosed outside of that period, you're satisfied with the method of disclosure?

  • We are, your Honour, yes.

  • Okay. Okay.

    Ms Hollis, could you respond to that perhaps before we say anything?

  • Yes, your Honour, I would be happy to. Perhaps Defence counsel is perplexed with the issue he raises; we also are perplexed, since we addressed that issue in a letter to him very recently. And our position was, first of all, that as he also has stated, providing materials in electronic format is not required as a part of disclosure. In order to assist the Defence, we have provided such materials in that format.

    On the 4th of June, as you're aware, we received a letter, as all of us did, that the accused would represent himself. Thereafter, there was a determination that a new Defence team would be appointed. Now, there was a notice that the Defence team had been appointed, in fact, but by a media release shortly after that. We had concerns that in fact this new Defence team had not signed any type of agreement that would bind them to keep confidential materials confidential.

    So until we had assurances that this new Defence team would in fact honour obligations that they had signed up to honour, we did not disclose any of our materials in electronic format. We have serious concerns about disclosing the material directly to the accused in electronic format, and we have explained those concerns to the Defence.

    Now, the Defence did then ask us by letter that we provide electronic format for this period of time between the 4th of June and the 25th of September. And what we responded to them was quite simple, that as they have workload issues, we have workload issues, and that I discussed with my Case Manager her ability to go back and do this, given her current obligations. And as I noted to the Defence in the letter we sent them, that we determined that as our workload permits, we will provide these materials in electronic format.

  • When will this be, Ms Hollis?

  • As our workload permits. We will -- we estimate that we will be able to do that over a period of several weeks.

  • So do I understand, Ms Hollis, that the Prosecution no longer has the confidentiality concerns? That you're being prepared to disclose electronically means that you now trust the Defence?

  • We now believe they have signed certain agreements that obligate them to treat confidential material as confidential and not to disclose it. And so -- and we also have confidence in the integrity of the Defence team. So as of --

  • Including the accused?

  • Because I think what Mr Griffiths is asking is disclosure to the Defence lawyers, not necessarily the accused. And what seems to be the problem now?

  • We are disclosing --

  • Why can you not disclose electronically?

  • We have -- we are continuing now to disclose electronically; and as our workload permits, we will fill in the gap.

  • Because, Ms Hollis, the materials in question are between the 4th of June and the 25th of September.

  • This would, in my thinking, mean material that you already have in electronic format.

  • We did not put it in electronic format because we were not disclosing it to the Defence in electronic format. What we do if we disclose it in electronic format is to put it on to a CD as we prepare the hard copy disclosure, and during that period of time we did not do that for all of those materials. So what we need to do now is go back and make sure we have done it for all of it; and as we do that, we will disclose it.

  • Yeah. But, Ms Hollis, you do realize from what Mr Griffiths said, the purpose of this electronic disclosure is to assist the Defence counsel that do not yet reside in The Hague. It's going to serve very little purpose if this disclosure is done somewhere near January, when they've probably taken up residence here.

  • Well, we appreciate that, your Honour, and hopefully your Honours appreciate that we also have current workloads and current obligations that we are attempting to fulfil, and that electronic disclosure does facilitate the Defence's preparation but it is not required. We are certainly willing to do it, but we also have in mind our current obligations which we must also fulfil in a timely fashion.

  • Ms Hollis, of course I do appreciate that under the Rules you have no obligation to do so and that whatever you do, you do so really in good faith to the Defence. But I want to hear from Mr Griffiths.

    Having heard what the Prosecution has now explained, what would you like the Court to do for you?

  • Well, your Honour, can I just address a couple of preliminary matters first. So far as the confidentiality of disclosure is concerned, all team members of the Defence side signed a document accepting our responsibility for non-dissemination and maintain in the confidentiality of all materials served upon us; and that was signed and provided to the Prosecution from the time of the last Status Conference in September. So that was dealt with from then.

    Secondly, we find it quite surprising that in this day and age, the Prosecution did not already have the materials for that period between the 4th of June and September in electronic format. But be that as it may, it would seem to us that this matter ought to be prioritized by the Prosecution in order to facilitate the speedy preparation by all parties to these proceedings. And in that light, we would submit that the Court should set a deadline by which the Prosecution should, firstly, reduce this material into electronic format; and secondly, serve it upon the Defence. And that deadline should allow us ample time prior to the start of the trial in January.

  • Ms Hollis, it's been brought to my attention that previously with the former Defence team when the Prosecution needed to disclose materials electronically, you did solicit the assistance of the Registry in helping you to outsource the conversion of these materials. Would you consider doing the same, because this would considerably speed up the process?

  • If we could have their assistance with that, certainly we would consider it, certainly, your Honour.

  • Because if they did, and I'm sure that they are willing, the Registry has indicated that it is willing to help you speed up the process of these disclosures. I am concerned -- we're concerned that this delay, you know, with people not residing in Freetown -- sorry, in The Hague and waiting for the paper -- the hard copies, might lead to undesirable delay. And if the Registrar can help, then I think you should have recourse to that assistance.

  • Thank you, your Honour. May I make two points, please. First of all, the Defence has the ability to scan the materials themselves; and if they scan it they turn it into electronic copy to send to the people who are not here. So they have that ability. That's my understanding and I believe that's correct.

    Secondly, I would like to address the request by the Defence that a deadline be set for electronic disclosure. We would oppose that because in our view by setting a deadline for electronic disclosure, this Court is determining that electronic disclosure is a required form of disclosure; and we do not believe it is required under the Rules. We have acted in very good faith by providing materials to the Defence, in some instances three times because they couldn't find what we had disclosed before. We have provided a very large amount of material in electronic form to assist them, and I certainly can assure this Court that we would not be dilatory in providing this back-log of information in the context of our ongoing obligations that themselves have time-limits.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Okay. We've considered the Defence request to set a deadline for this electronic disclosure, and we think it is not appropriate for us to issue such a deadline because, first of all, it's not an obligation under the Rules for the Prosecution to make this electronic disclosure.

    Secondly, we want really to rely on the goodwill of the parties in this regard and on the assistance of the Registrar, which he has indicated he is more than willing to give. And I do trust in the professionalism on both sides and the good faith of the Prosecution that they have exhibited thus far, that they will do their best to disclose electronically the relevant materials. So I will not make an order in that regard.

    Now, the second agenda item is any issues in relation to the administration of this case. I do not know if the parties have any issues that they would like the Bench to address at this stage.

    Mr Griffiths.

  • There are a number of matters that we would like to raise, your Honour. The first such matter is somewhat sensitive, and consequently we consider that it would be most appropriate for that to be dealt with in closed session.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Mr Griffiths, if I may ask, is this a matter for a Status Conference or is this a matter for a motion?

  • I think it could be adequately dealt with at a Status Conference, your Honour, particularly bearing in mind the time constraints, that we're now a matter of weeks away from the start of the trial, and it is a subject matter which is of vital importance to the future preparation of the Defence.

  • Is this matter -- does it have anything to do with a previous order of the Court?

  • It does -- tangentially it does, your Honour, but it relates to some documentation which we caused to be sent through to the Court last night a very slim bundle, that's the matter that I have in mind.

  • Ms Hollis, what do you say to the application for closed session? This is not very regular for a Status Conference, but I have no idea what this matter concerns. I'd appreciate hearing from the Prosecution.

  • Your Honour, we received the materials that Defence counsel referred to, we received them this morning; I have reviewed them. And given the subject matter and orders that have been entered by this Court, the Prosecution would suggest perhaps not a closed session but perhaps a private session so that there is no audio going out of the courtroom. I believe that it is a matter that would need to be dealt with outside the public forum.

  • Mr Griffiths, would you -- would a private session do instead of a closed one?

  • Well, if my learned friend is happy with that procedure, then I'll accede to that, your Honour, yes.

  • Court Management, is it possible to have a private session organized? So I suppose it won't take five minutes.

  • I think it's possible.

  • Do we sit here or do we retire?

  • We'll contact the AV booth and we'll get back.

  • In the meantime, is there anything else that we can address, aside from this issue?

  • Your Honour, the Prosecution did raise two matters that perhaps properly fall within the administration of the case, and that has to do with discussing the course of the proceedings on the 7th of January and also whether or not there will be a Status Conference in December. So if your Honours are happy to discuss these issues under the administration of the case, we could go forward with that.

    We raise these two issues simply to ensure that any matters which might delay the commencement of presentation of evidence are raised in a timely fashion so they can be dealt with before the 7th of January; and for that reason, we ask guidance as to what the Trial Chamber and the Defence contemplate would be the course of proceedings, the agenda, for the 7th of January. And in that regard, we envision possible scenarios to include, of course, just beginning with presentation of evidence or beginning with housekeeping matters that may have arisen that are minor in nature and then going on to presentation of evidence. What we would like to avoid or have advance notice of is if the 7th of January would somehow turn into a Status Conference, at which -- after which no evidence would be presented.

    So we want to raise this matter so that if the Defence has any issues they believe could impact the commencement of the presentation of evidence on the 7th of January, those issues can be brought up now and dealt with before the recess so that we may move forward in a very organized and efficient manner on the 7th of January.

    So the two items we raised really are one in the sense that if there are other matters that need to be raised that might impact beginning to present evidence on the 7th of January, then perhaps that should be done no later than at a December Status Conference.

  • Okay. Maybe before I address these two issues, I'm informed that we're ready for a private session. I think -- I will respond to the two issues that you have raised after the private session.

    So, Ms Hollis, if you will take your seat, we will consider the issue that's for the private session.

  • Your Honour, we are going into private session.

  • [Private session] . he

  • [Open session]

  • Your Honour, we are now in open session.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • The court is now in open session.

    Just before we went into private session, Ms Hollis, you raised two issues of concern I believe to the Prosecution, the first of which was whether on the 7th of January you expected a Status Conference to be held or whether the Prosecution should plan to lead witness testimony.

    Now, in my view, the Trial Chamber made it abundantly clear on the 20th of August, 2007, in our -- when we ordered that the trial was adjourned for hearing to Monday, the 7th of January, 2008. In my view, "hearing" is precisely that; hearing is not a Status Conference, it is the hearing of evidence. The Prosecution has already commenced its case because they made their opening statement way back in the middle of the year, and we do not expect that they -- that the 7th of January will be a Status Conference. We expect to continue with the hearing of evidence. I think it's as clear as can be, and that is indeed what we intend to do.

    Now, the second issue is whether there would be a Status Conference in December. Now, I remember in the last Status Conference held in September the Judges were of the view that we should actually have a Status Conference every month; and if I remember correctly, it was the parties that objected to this. And you stated, I think on both sides, that you didn't need a Status Conference every month and that you wanted the Judges to leave you alone to actually get on with the business of preparing for trial. And now, lo and behold, you are talking of a Status Conference two weeks away from now.

    Now, I'm not saying that a Status Conference will not be necessary, but really I'm just wondering why you are sending these contradictory signals to the Bench.

  • Thank you, your Honour. First of all, we don't consider the signals to be contradictory. We suggested, as I recall, that there was no need for a Status Conference unless there were matters which needed to be resolved. In light of the fact that the presentation of evidence begins immediately following the judicial recess, Prosecution raises the possibility of a Status Conference simply to ensure that if the Defence has an issue they are now aware of which they feel should be addressed prior to the presentation of evidence, that we do it either today or we do it in a Status Conference in December.

    Similarly, as we said, if there is a reason to have a Status Conference we would request one. Should the Prosecution have any issues which might impact events of the 7th of January, we would request a Status Conference. But this is simply to put it in the minds of everyone to ensure that if there is a need for one indeed it is requested so that all the appropriate matters can be dealt with before the judicial recess. That was the reason for raising the issue, your Honour.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Please be seated, Ms Hollis.

    Mr Griffiths, have you changed your mind about having another Status Conference? Can we hear from you.

  • It's not a question of changing my mind, but my recollection is that when we met in September the parties agreed that there would be no need for a further Status Conference in October, it being suggested by the Bench that we needed a monthly meeting. So that the agreement - and I respectfully agree with my learned friend on this - was that we wouldn't have one in October, not that we wouldn't, following our November meeting, require a further meeting at some stage in December. Because it seems to us, given that we're all hopeful that proceedings will begin smoothly on the 7th of January, it just seemed to us appropriate that perhaps at the beginning of December or sometime close to the beginning of December we ought to have a meeting to in effect clear the decks before the Christmas break so that all parties can return after the Christmas break knowing that the 7th of January is an effective date.

    And consequently, we had in mind perhaps such a Status Conference being held on the 11th of December. I don't know if I can assist you any further on that, your Honour.

  • Thank you. Thank you, Mr Griffiths.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Ms Hollis, would you be agreeable to a Status Conference on December the 11th, that would be a Tuesday I believe?

  • Yes, your Honour.

  • You would be agreeable to that.

    Mr Griffiths, you suggested Tuesday, the 11th.

  • [Microphone not activated]

  • All right then. Tuesday, the 11th of December, we'll have a Status Conference, again to monitor the progress of preparations for the trial, and the time will be 11.00 a.m. We will publish an agenda for the day in due course.

    I don't know if there's any other business.

  • There is a couple of additional matters that we'd like to mention, your Honour. Your Honour, the first is this. We were made aware of a decision made by your Honours regarding an ex parte application made on behalf of the Crown at the end of August this year, that is, the -- a decision of your Honours T-355 dated the 5th of November, 2007.

  • Yes, we are aware of that.

  • Now, we're grateful of course for the decision made by your Honours in response to that application; however, we are anxious that the ex parte procedure be not abused by any party to these proceedings, because it seems to us that such a procedure affects the quality of decision-making because the Court only hears from one party to the proceedings. And there are a host of grounds upon which we would have objected, had we been party to the argument surrounding that particular motion filed by the Prosecution.

    Now, whereas we accept, consistent with your Honours' decision, that this was a most unmeritorious application by the Prosecution without any jurisprudential foundation, we are anxious that there is no repeat of such abuse of the Court's procedure, and consequently would respectfully ask the Court to issue a practice direction for the guidance of all parties as to the use of the ex parte procedure by any party to these proceedings. That is my application, your Honour.

  • Ms Hollis, would you kindly respond.

  • Thank you, your Honour. Nicholas Koumjian.

    Your Honours, the application that the Prosecution made in that case was to obtain access to documents which the Prosecution felt could be critical documents incriminating the accused. Our belief that these personal archives contained evidence critical to the Prosecution case came from a statement of Mr Griffiths in the hearing, where your Honour asked him: Is there any documents -- or I believe your Honour actually said you're not saying there are any documents that affect the Prosecution case; and Mr Griffiths said: I cannot make that. There appear to be documents directly relevant to the Prosecution case.

    This type of motion to seize documents is made ex parte in all jurisdictions all over the world. It simply wouldn't make sense to have a procedure where one party notifies the other party that -- the accused, in fact, that we're going to come and ask to take documents from you that can prove you are guilty. That would be -- that's not done anywhere that I know and it wouldn't make sense.

    The Prosecution certainly respects the need for proceedings to be public that -- and that any ex parte motions be very limited in purpose and in scope. We don't have a problem, for example, now that the motion has been denied in making our application public; we have no problem with that at all. But while it was pending, it wouldn't make sense to make that a public application. While your Honours were considering the motion it wouldn't make sense for the Defence and the defendant to know that the Prosecution was seeking incriminating documents in his possession. Thank you.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Mr Griffiths, I know you want to reply, but we really don't want to relitigate a decision that we already made. I think your application was with regard to the issuance of some kind of practice direction to guide the parties as to when they may properly file ex parte motions.

  • Your Honour, it seems to us that such guidance would benefit all the parties in these proceedings because we were concerned that the Prosecution in this case, having arrested and transported this accused halfway across the world and charged him on an indictment containing several counts, thereafter should see fit to in effect have access to Defence material whilst that Prosecution is ongoing. I know of no precedent for such an application in criminal proceedings.

  • Mr Griffiths, really, with due respect, I think you are relitigating this issue, an issue that was settled I believe in the benefit or to the benefit of the accused in this case and of the Defence team. There really is no need to do that. And really, in the issue of ex parte proceedings you cannot set rules -- general rules for ex parte proceedings because each case is unique in and of itself, and so I don't think it's an appropriate kind of application to make at this stage. The Trial Chamber is prepared on a case-by-case basis to deal with these applications as and when they arise on their merits.

    I will ask my colleague Justice Lussick to say something.

  • Well, the only thing I wanted to add to that, Mr Griffiths, is that you seem to be proceeding on the presumption that had the Prosecution ex parte motion had any merit, we still would not have called upon the Defence and given them a chance to respond; and that is just not correct. Had that motion had some merit, we would have lifted the ex parte and the Defence would have had every chance to respond to it. We made our decision on the basis, as you've already commented, that there was no merit to it and that it was saving time to deal with it there and then.

  • I'm grateful for that indication, your Honour.

  • Are there any other matters before I adjourn these proceedings?

  • [Microphone not activated]

  • Can you turn your mike on, please.

  • I'm sorry, my fault.

    We're in receipt of a letter from the Prosecution dated the 8th of November, 2007, in which the Prosecution make various allegations regarding, in effect, witness interference by persons associated with the Defence. Now, we are becoming slightly concerned, your Honour, that a number of such statements have been made by the Prosecution during the course of these proceedings; and yet, to date very little in the way of hard evidence has been provided, either to the Court or to the Defence, in order to substantiate these suggestions.

  • Mr Griffiths, I beg your pardon, but we have no idea what you're talking about. Is the Court in receipt of such a letter or is this merely a letter addressed to the Defence team?

  • This is a letter addressed to the Defence team, your Honour.

  • And then why are you seizing the Court with this issue?

  • Because it's a matter which has been raised I think with the Court in the past, which is witness interference, and consequently the imposition of protective measures. And it is a matter that concerns us because it seems to be an attitude which is pervading the way in which ...

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Mr Griffiths, are you referring to a motion that is pending before the Court for protective measures?

  • Because if you're not, then we are at a loss. We have no clue what you are talking about. We don't know what matter was previously brought to the attention of the Court, as you allege.

  • Very well. Your Honour, it may well be that in the circumstances that this particular issue may well be left to another occasion when we can address it compendiously with the further motion being requested by the Prosecution here.

  • Thank you.

    Then there being no other matters, I will adjourn these proceedings to the 11th of December at 11.00 a.m. for a Status Conference.

  • [Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 12.06 p.m.]