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

  • [Open session]

  • [The accused not present]

  • [Upon commencing at 9.30 a.m.]

  • Good morning. We will take appearances, please.

  • Good morning, your Honours, Madam President. For the Prosecution this morning, Maja Dimitrova, Ula Nathai-Lutchman, Christopher Santora and myself, Nicolas Koumjian.

  • Good morning, Madam President. Good morning, your Honours. Good morning, counsel opposite. Appearing for the Defence this morning are Terry Munyard and myself, Morris Anyah.

  • Mr Anyah, I notice the accused is not present in court. Could you address us on the reasons for his absence?

  • Madam President, this morning, perhaps about ten after 9, I received a call from James Kamara, who is a member of our team, and Mr Kamara advised me that he did speak with Mr Taylor this morning and that Mr Taylor was not going to be present in court. I asked why, and he explained that a circumstance arose at the detention centre whereby a room in which Mr Taylor keeps his confidential legal materials appeared to have been tampered with, meaning that someone other than another detainee, and possibly a detention centre personnel, had gone through his confidential legal materials.

    I don't know the details of this particular episode. While we were in court here Mr Taylor attempted to reach us, but unfortunately the telephone network did not function because of the presence of what I am told are blockers in the courtroom that prevent calls from coming in.

    So under the circumstances I would make an initial application, which would be to be given perhaps five to ten minutes to ring Mr Taylor up and find out exactly what is going on.

    I notice that present here in court today is the head of the sub-office of the Special Court, Mr Townsend, and perhaps he has more information than we do. But for our purposes, this is what we know right now.

  • Indeed I think Mr Townsend does have information, but he speaks for the Chief of Detention. Mr Townsend being a representative of the Registrar of the Special Court, he would not speak for the accused. That is why I had wanted you, from the Defence side, to tell the Court your side of the story as to why the accused is not present.

  • We appreciate --

  • And more importantly, as to the possibility of Mr Taylor coming in later today --

  • Madam President --

  • If it please, Madam President, I will be in a better position to advise the Court both as to what happened, and as to the possibility of Mr Taylor being present today if given the opportunity to call him. So I make that application. I ask for an adjournment of ten minutes to speak to our client so that we can be better placed to advise the Court about the totality of the circumstances.

  • Mr Anyah, whilst you are on your feet, might I inquire why Mr Griffiths is absent?

  • I have not been able to reach Mr Griffiths. I have tried personally, but I know others, including Mr Kamara and Mr Taylor, have tried. Usually when this happens it is something that's rather serious, either he is ill or, given the cold weather in The Hague today, he has had difficulties getting here. It's unusual, but I am sure I will also be speaking to him shortly.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Could I ask Mr Townsend to address the judges as to any information you might have from the detention centre, please.

  • May it please the Trial Chamber: Your Honours, at approximately 7.50 this morning I received a phone call from Mr Anders Backman, the Chief Custody Officer of the International Criminal Court Detention Unit, and he informed me that Mr Taylor is well and had decided not to come to court this morning because he was upset about an inspection that took place on Monday, 25 January - that's this Monday - of the cell, not the one in which Mr Taylor sleeps, but the one in which he keeps his papers and his personal effects. Mr Taylor became aware of that, shall I say, informal inspection yesterday, Tuesday the 26th, and has opted not to come to court today.

    I don't have any information about what Mr Anyah represented as an apparent tampering, but I understand that Mr Backman entered that cell, the one in which Mr Taylor keeps his personal effects and papers, on the 25th in order to assess the volume of personal effects, and he did that for various detainees who have a growing amount of personal effects, and they are interested in securing additional storage for that, and that was the purpose of that entry.

    That's the information I have, your Honours, as of now. In terms of his being able to come to court, should he choose so at a later point this morning, I understand that that is a possibility; we would just need to inform the Dutch Transport Police, the DV&O. That's all I can inform you of at this time, your Honours.

  • Well, Mr Anyah, there you have some information which can form the basis of your inquiry from Mr Taylor. What the Court really is interested in is to establish whether this day can be salvaged and the proceedings can continue.

    I think we can indulge you and allow you a break of, say, ten minutes for you to make the necessary inquiries, and when we return we will mark the way forward as far as today is concerned.

  • Thank you, Madam President.

  • We will return to court at 10 to 10.

  • [Break taken at 9.42 a.m.]

  • [Upon resuming at 10.08 a.m.]

  • Yes, Mr Anyah, do you have word from the detention centre?

  • Yes I do, Madam President. I have spoken with Mr Taylor and this is what I know: Mr Taylor indicates that there is a room adjacent to his cell at the ICC detention centre. He has had that adjacent room for the past three years or however long he's been at the detention centre. That adjacent room contains all his private documents, in particular his legal papers pertaining to this case. Over the last year he has noticed that from time to time it appears that someone goes into that room unbeknownst to him. The frequency of that occurrence has increased over the last year and this week he decided to turn up the heating in the room and after doing so on the following day, being yesterday, he came into the room and found out that the heating had been turned down and that the room was very cold.

    This morning he confronted whom he identified as a principal officer at the detention centre. I am told the principal officer is below the chief custodial officer and the deputy chief custodial officer. That principal officer admitted to him after Mr Taylor inquired about the room that on Monday last, the 25th, the chief custodial officer as well as the deputy chief custodial officer and the principal officer went into that room. They did so in the absence of Mr Taylor and the apparent purpose was as was indicated by Mr Townsend; something to the effect that they were looking to ascertain the volume of material in the room, perhaps for purposes of the allocation of space.

    Mr Taylor found that very disturbing and in our view rightfully so because the practice thus far at that detention centre has been that at the time such an inspection occurs the detainee is present. They may not necessarily always give prior notice of these impromptu inspections, if you will, but at the time of the occurrence when they are carried out the detainee is usually present. In this case at the time of the inspection on the 25th Mr Taylor was not present and post the inspection, subsequent to it, he was not advised of it until he inquired.

    Now, Mr Taylor has since the course of this morning been undertaking an exercise to ascertain what if any materials are missing from the room. He does believe that materials have been looked into and/or are missing. He is just not sure of what has, if you will, been inspected. So he has spent this morning going through his materials. He doesn't know the extent of the breach and he tells me that it will take perhaps almost a week to go through the over one million documents. I am not sure if it's documents or pages, but the material is in excess of a million pages that he has in the room.

    Regarding your Honour's primary concern at this point or as indicated previously whether or not there is the possibility of proceeding today he advises me that he can be here during the afternoon session at 2.30 p.m. In fact he is dressed, ready and willing and able to come to court. He is just very disturbed at this turn of events. The information in that room extends beyond materials in this case and include his private personal papers. Your Honours can imagine what those might be, his religious materials and the like and personal thoughts. So this is a very serious matter.

    So, in the totality of the circumstances, I make another application on behalf of Mr Taylor, which is that the proceedings be adjourned until 2.30 p.m. this afternoon. I have informally advised Mr Townsend that transport might be needed at that time. That's my first application.

    My second application would be that your Honours order the Registry to undertake an investigation of this matter to ascertain what was done on Monday in that room by these detention centre officers and when the investigation is completed there might be further applications coming from the Defence.

    The last point of which I can alert the Court to is Mr Griffiths's absence. We have not been able to reach Mr Griffiths. Mr Munyard has tried repeatedly and there is a measure of concern on our part that we have not been able to do so. We are considering sending someone to his flat to ascertain his whereabouts. That's what I know, Madam President.

  • Mr Koumjian, do you have anything to say in response before I rule on the application for continuance?

  • Thank you, Madam President. The Prosecution's only observation is that, in our view, no valid reason has been given for Mr Taylor not to be here, that if he has matters of concern regarding his detention of course he has a right to bring that to the attention of the Chamber, apparently he's had these for a year but hasn't done so. He needs to be here to bring that to the attention of the Chamber and it sounds like he is available to come to court far earlier than 2.30. We would just ask your Honours to consider setting a time, something like the 12 o'clock normal beginning of the second session, to bring him to court. Thank you.

  • [Trial Chamber conferred]

  • Mr Anyah, thank you for the information you have given the Court. I would like to make a number of observations, having heard from both yourself and from Mr Townsend and finally from Mr Koumjian.

    Whatever might have happened at the detention centre does not sound to us like a matter for the Trial Chamber now to get engaged in in that it's not a matter that goes to the fair trial rights of the accused. We've not had concrete evidence that that is in fact what happened.

    We are also aware that the detention rules do give the Chief of Detention latitude to conduct searches of the cells, routine searches of the cells. So far we have not heard anything to indicate to us that anything out of the ordinary went on in the detention centre.

    Now we are concerned of course that Mr Taylor has opted not to come to court and I think we do agree with Mr Koumjian's observations that the right thing to do would have been for Mr Taylor to come to court and probably use time outside of the court time to search his documents and to ensure that his property is in order. But to assume that he is entitled to take time out of the court in order to satisfy himself that his personal effects and documents were not tampered with I think is not right. This is taking time that the Court has not given him.

    Now, you have asked for an adjournment until 2.30. The Trial Chamber thinks that's an inordinate amount of time. And you say that Mr Taylor might require the rest of the week to actually make sure that nothing was tampered with, yet he is willing to come in at 2 or 2.30. Mr Taylor can take all the time that he needs outside of the court's sitting time, this is the view of the Chamber, to ensure that he satisfies himself as to the safe custody of his personal effects.

    We are of the view that he could come in at 12, that is after the mid-morning break, in order to salvage the rest of this day for cross-examination. We are going to grant you an adjournment until 12 and I am going to request Mr Townsend to ensure that transportation is arranged to bring Mr Taylor to court so that he can appear at 12 o'clock and that the trial can continue from there onwards.

    You seem to think that is not workable, Mr Anyah?

  • Well, Madam President, we are in the Court's hands and we are no doubt bound by your Honour's observations. But if it please your Honours, if I could be heard briefly on this point regarding his fair trial rights and the additional point mentioned by learned counsel opposite that Mr Taylor should have been here to convey the essence of what happened to the Court.

    He does speak through us, we are his lawyers, and when something happens and he tries to reach us and unfortunately could not reach any of us this morning, it is our mandate to come before your Honours and speak for him. He doesn't always have to be here when exigent circumstances occur, and that's what we have done. We are addressing the Court on his behalf and all applications we make are as if he were here present himself making them.

    With respect to the fair trial rights issue, Madam President. With respect, and this is just for purposes of the record, it is a very serious circumstance when documents that might include confidential attorney client privilege materials might have been inspected and they do go directly in our view and respectful submission to his fair trial rights. We appreciate --

  • Mr Anyah, if I may interrupt. There is nothing at this stage that you have told the Chamber which confirms that documents were in fact tampered with. It's solely a supposition and this is precisely the point that I am making, that Mr Taylor presumed that this happened, presumed that the Court would adjourn and not sit until he is nice and ready and this is where he erred. He should have come in court because we might not have been inclined to grant him an adjournment. But he took an adjournment without asking for it. That's the point I am trying to make.

  • I appreciate it, Madam President. I just --

  • If and when a matter does arise that goes to the fair trial rights of the accused, of course that would be addressed when the time comes. But so far, no such thing has arisen. It's all supposition, and the Trial Chamber is being held to ransom here. This is our concern, and I think nothing that I have heard - nothing further that I have heard from you can make me change my mind as to the Court order to resume at 12, and that is the order that I have given.

    Secondly, also there is nothing that we have heard that will convince us at this stage to order an inquiry, because everything is supposition. We cannot order the Registrar to inquire into what appears to have been a routine search in the detention centre. As you know, matters of detention are purely the purview of the Registrar and not the Trial Chamber.

    So the Court will adjourn till 12, and we expect that the trial will continue then.

  • Thank you, Madam President.

  • [Break taken at 10.22 a.m.]

  • [Upon resuming at 12.05 p.m.]

  • [The accused present]

  • Mr Anyah, I presume the Defence is ready to proceed with the trial.

  • That is correct, Madam President.

  • Thank you. Mr Koumijan, are you going to take the cross-examination this morning?

  • Yes, Madam President.

  • Before you do, Mr Taylor, good morning. I would just like to remind you of your declaration to tell the truth as the cross-examination continues.