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.]

  • Now before I take appearances and remind the witness of his oath, it would appear that the accused is not in court.

  • That is correct, Madam President. Do you wish to take appearances first and then we can formally start the proceedings.

  • I will tell you what I know and it may be that Mr Chekera, who is here from the Office of the Principal Defender, will be able to assist with more information. I don't know.

  • Thank you. I will take appearances and then we will deal with that matter first. Mr Bangura?

  • Good morning, your Honours. Your Honours, this morning for the Prosecution: Ms Brenda Hollis; Nick Koumjian; myself, Mohamed Bangura; and Maja Dimitrova.

  • I think there is another gentleman there.

  • I am sorry, I did not mean to be impolite. Mr Alain Werner. I actually did not realise he had come in.

    Your Honours, if I may I would like to - your Lordships will notice that Ms Alagendra, who has been conducting the case for the Prosecution in respect of this witness, is not here with us this morning. If your Lordships wish, I may wish to address you on her absence.

  • Perhaps I will take the other appearances first. Excuse me, I hadn't my microphone on. I will take the other appearances first and then I will come back and we will deal with the absence of the accused - he may require to be dealt with - and then I will deal with that matter.

  • Thank you, your Honour.

  • Good morning, Madam President, your Honours, counsel opposite. For the Defence is: myself, Terry Munyard; Morris Anyah; Fatiah Balfas; and from the Office of the Principal Defender is Silas Chekera. As I am on my feet and you have already raised the question of the absence of the accused, can I go straight into what I know about the situation.

  • There has been for I think it is right to say now some weeks a change in the transportation regime from the prison in

    Scheveningen to the courthouse here. I don't know, because I have received conflicting information, as to the nature of the security escort who now are bringing Mr Taylor to court. All I do know is that they are different from the security personnel who had been bringing him up to about the first six weeks of the trial. There have been no difficulties at all with the previous organisation.

    I don't know if the present security staff are part of a public State system, part of the Ministry of Justice, or what. I don't know if they are a privatised organisation, but all I can say is that in the last couple of weeks there has been a much more restrictive set of arrangements in force, about which we have been expressing concern behind the scenes and we haven't thus far sought to raise the matter at a higher level. I emphasise "thus far".

    As I understand it, this morning Mr Taylor was subjected to what in common law jurisdictions that I am familiar with would be called an intimate search. It was an intimate search of considerable intrusion and physical pain and this was the first time it had been done this way and he protested. He was told that it would be persisted in if he was to be brought to court this morning by that particular security detail and he refused to participate further in this so far unique, offensive and physically painful procedure.

    I am not aware that this has been attempted before. I see no reason for it now. He has been humiliated and more than physically discomforted, and he made it plain that he was perfectly willing to come to court provided this procedure was not persisted in. It appears from the latest information that I have received from the security staff here at the ICC building that whoever - who's ever idea it was to persist in this procedure has had a change of heart, as a result of which I understand Mr Taylor is well on his way to court now and may even be within the precincts as I speak.

    So, I ask the Court's indulgence to wait for his arrival before we deal with any further aspect of any part of this case this morning. It is perfectly plain that he has been cooperating every single day, not just in the last eight weeks, but hitherto before the trial actually restarted on 7 January. This is the first time such a procedure has been added to the increasing list of restrictions that have been put on him in recent times and - well, I suspect he may be here now. Yes, I am receiving an indication that he is, so I would simply ask the Court for a few minutes grace in order to have him here. I am told he is going to be in the premises in two minutes and I would obviously want to take instructions from him in order to address the Court further.

  • Just to make sure, you know the attitude of this Trial Chamber is that the accused can be brought into court. We don't have to be absent when he is brought into court if for some reason beyond his control he is delayed. However, are you asking for a few minutes privately with him prior to the Court resuming?

  • Madam President, that was what I was asking for because so far I received different reports from different people and, applying the best evidence rule to this situation, it is obviously much more satisfactory for me to speak to him directly so that I can address you directly.

  • I will now seek a reply to the application for a short adjournment and I will hear what Mr Bangura has to say about Ms Alagendra.

  • Thank you, your Honour.

  • Then we will -- Mr Bangura, there are two issues.

  • Yes, your Honour, and I take firstly the application for I believe a short adjournment. I am not too sure whether it is an adjournment it is my learned friend is asking for?

  • I understand he needs to speak to the accused in private.

  • The Prosecution does not object to that.

    Your Honours, in relation to the absence of Ms Alagendra, she had to travel, or she is as I speak on her way travelling, back to Freetown this morning. Your Honour, Ms Alagendra normally is based in Freetown and would come up to conduct witnesses whom she works with in Freetown. It was - she had a schedule to return back to Freetown today after being here for about three weeks. Up until last evening it was our anticipation that this witness's testimony would have been concluded in fact before last evening, but it became apparent that it was not and we were prepared, or she was prepared, to postpone her return up until the close of the Court day yesterday, but after we closed it became clear that any postponement of her flight would require her another two weeks for a reservation to go back to Freetown and this was going to impact greatly on her planning for the next session witnesses.

  • So, she is not here.

  • She is not here, your Honour.

  • And what are you seeking from the Court?

  • Your Honours, first of all she has asked that I tender her apologies to this Court for not having had the opportunity to seek your leave to go away without completion of this witness's testimony and, if it pleases your Lordships, I will step in her shoes for the Prosecution to complete the testimony of this witness.

  • Mr Munyard, before I consult with my colleagues on the two issues, have you anything to say about the substitution of Ms Alagendra?

  • Three things in the light of what Mr Bangura has just told us. The first is this. Ms Alagendra told me on Wednesday morning before we sat that she anticipated she would be another 15 minutes with her witness. In fact, if my memory is correct, I got up to cross-examine him around half-past-three in the afternoon on Wednesday and so obviously her time estimate was wrong. She also told me then - in fact she told me before that - that she had a flight booked today to go back to Freetown, and I anticipated that I may well finish the witness - on Wednesday, when she told me that, I anticipated I may well finish the witness by mid-morning yesterday, so obviously her time estimates and her planning have gone awry. I make no criticism of any advocate for getting their time estimates wrong. We all do. It is very rare that we get them right.

    It is a matter for the Prosecution and the Court how they distribute their work between them. You will be aware that hitherto we have been completely cooperative with all of the requests of the Prosecution to move witnesses around, to reduce the 42 day rule, to have an expert witness interposed and so on and so forth. We have cooperated at every single turn and we have no observations to make on whether or not it is appropriate for them to have a substitute part way through a witness.

    Can I also though just add this. I think we all are taken by surprise by Mr Bangura's suggestion that, if you don't go this morning to Freetown, you can't go for another two weeks. I know from my own arrangements for going to Freetown that there are various routes. You don't have to go directly there and, in fact, you are lucky if you can go directly there. I am merely expressing surprise at that suggestion, no more than that. I don't think there is anything else I can say that is helpful.

  • Thank you, Mr Munyard. My learned colleagues and I have consulted on the two issues. We will allow Mr Munyard some time to - a short adjournment to speak to his client and we will rise in due course.

    On the substitution of Mr Bangura, we would observe that professional courtesy should have determined that Ms Alagendra informed us of this herself if she was aware of the possibility of this happening. If she was aware on Wednesday, according to Mr Munyard she was informed, we would have expected that professional courtesy directly to the Bench. However, with that caveat we have no objection to the substitution of Mr Bangura for the continuation of the cross-examination and re-examination, if any should arise.

    We will now adjourn briefly and we will ask counsel to inform us when they are ready to proceed.

  • Thank you, Madam President.

  • [Break taken at 9.43 a.m.]

  • [The accused present]

  • [Upon resuming at 10.03 a.m.]

  • Madam President, we are very grateful to the Court for giving us that short opportunity to take instructions. Before I deal with the situation of Mr Taylor's arrival at court this morning, can I just correct one thing. When I addressed you on the position of Ms Alagendra passing the baton as it were to Mr Bangura, I said to you that I spoke to her about her planned departure on Wednesday and possibly before and I think in your ruling you indicated that I had found out only on Wednesday. That is not right. In fact I was also approached on either Tuesday or Wednesday by Ms Baly, who asked me, "Will Ms Alagendra make her flight on Friday morning?", so this is obviously something that was well in hand for at least a week. I just wanted to correct that, because I didn't say to you, Madam President, that I found out for the first time on Wednesday. It was earlier than that. Can i now move on.

  • For the purposes of record, I said that you were aware on Wednesday.

  • Ah, I see. Thank you.

  • I didn't say when you learnt, because I don't know.

  • Very well. Can I deal now with the situation relating to Mr Taylor. I don't want to take up very much time, if I don't have to, on that subject. It is very much as I said when I addressed you in his absence. I have the following further information to add, in that when he was subjected to this very intrusive intimate search --

  • Excuse me, your Honour. [Microphone not activated] Excuse me, your Honour. Is it better that maybe we address these issues in a private session?

  • There has been no application for a private session and so this will proceed.

  • We are not making any such application and I have taken instructions. I am grateful to Madam Court Officer. I think we are adult enough to discuss these things in public.

    As far as he was concerned, he insisted on coming to court. It was the security staff who said they would not take him to court unless he allowed them to persist in this not just intimate but painful search, and he insisted on coming to court to the extent that he telephoned personally the Chief of Detention, Mr Anders Backman, and insisted to him that he be brought to court but not subjected to this unique and offensive procedure. It was eventually then decided, presumably on high, that it was not necessary on this particular date for the first time to indulge in that particular practice, so arrangements were then made for him to get to court and as you know he arrived about seven minutes after the Court sat.

    Can I add this. I simply want to remind all the parties that Mr Taylor came to court last week at a time when it was perfectly plain that he was not 100 per cent well. He pressed to come to court and, even though we were advising him that he was not - it was pretty obvious that he was not physically fit enough to continue, he insisted on continuing until such time as he accepted that he really ought to go back to the prison and be looked after there.

    I have to make one correction. It was not Mr Taylor who spoke to Mr Backman, he got a guard to do that, but it was at his insistence that Mr Backman was called. Unless, Madam President, there are any other matters you wish me to explore further, those are my instructions on what happened this morning.

  • Thank you, Mr Munyard, for that information. There are no other questions arising from the Bench. We will now then proceed. I will remind the witness of his oath.